NEW YORK – For the first time in two decades, Bill de Blasio, professional politician and agent, was faced with the prospect of a life outside of public office. Then came the overthrow of his archenemy, Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Now the Mayor of New York City, due to leave office in four months due to tenure restrictions, has begun calling allies about a possible candidacy for governor in the wide-open Democratic primary next June.
De Blasio has called several union leaders in the past few days to gauge support, a union member familiar with the previously unreported conversations told POLITICO.
“He is letting the leaders know that he is considering running for governor,” said the person who requested anonymity to speak freely about the preparatory steps.
When asked to characterize the conversations, the person said, “He is just asking friends to hold back on a decision,” as regards the endorsements, until he finds out his own plans.
“It was just to let them know that he is seriously considering running, with the express aim of staving off any momentum for Tish and Kathy,” added the person, referring to Attorney General Tish James and Governor Kathy Hochul, who told her Took office when Cuomo resigned last month after a report found he sexually harassed employees.
Several current and former employees of de Blasio admitted that he wanted to stay in politics – the only career path he has ever known. But many wondered how he would amass his reliable base of black voters in Brooklyn and Queens when competing with James, a popular black attorney general who has won races both city and state.
“I thought that Tish would not challenge Hochul in the end, but there was a lot of chatter yesterday and today that she was seriously exploring a run,” said Democratic advisor Neal Kwatra, who has worked for de Blasio at times. tweeted Tuesday afternoon. “This is going to be a fascinating case in NY politics. When Tish runs, there is literally no trace of him [de Blasio] either. [Rep. Tom] Suozzi is also still in the mix. “
Peter Ragone, a longtime friend and advisor to the mayor, left the door open when asked if de Blasio was planning to run for governor.
“When we talk, the mayor’s focus is always on fighting Covid and [the city’s] Recovery, ”said Ragone. “He is an elected leader who has proven he can accomplish great things like getting about 70,000 children into universal preschool. I think anyone with this kind of experience and commitment to the civil service should consider other ways to contribute, in whatever form. “
Reaching out to union leaders is the surest – but not only – sign that the mayor is testing the water.
He made himself visible beyond Covid-19 via his daily public briefing – on a ferris wheel in Times Square; Visit to a Sikh cultural center in Queens; and took the opportunity on Wednesday evening during a livestream interview about Peacock to present his handling of the pandemic.
It also evaluates public opinion.
The New York Times Reported Wednesday evening that its longtime pollster Anna Greenberg recently tested its popularity outside of the five boroughs.
Aides said the mayor’s interest was piqued when Data For Progress, a left-wing national think tank, found him in second place with Hochul in a possible gubernatorial matchup. James led this hypothetical list with 26 percent and a quarter of respondents said they were undecided.
But the mayor, who has been successfully re-elected and has stabilized his approval ratings, faces significant obstacles in pursuing higher office.
If he solicits campaign funds while he is still mayor, he risks criticizing the prioritization of politics during a public health crisis.
But if he waits until he’s out of office in January, he’ll lose the advantage of raising money from people who want to curry favor with an incumbent mayor – a practice from his past fundraiser that sparked a multi-year investigation into the not working lead to charges.
The mayor, who won in 2013 with the support of a multiracial coalition, has lost the support of his former white voters. Poll after poll showed.
Wealthy and politically moderate white voters were never part of de Blasio’s base. But left-wing Democrats in parts of Manhattan and Brooklyn bitter him after helping him lead eight years ago.
If his base of black voters favors James or another candidate, de Blasio will have to regain some of his lost white support. In addition, moderate and conservative Democrats tend to be more influential in statewide races than in citywide competitions.
As a Democratic agent who asked for background recently said, “He’s in the worst place where the left thinks he’s a cop and the cops think he’s a Sandanista.”