Start spreading the news. Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York City has jumped into the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. De Blasio believes if he can make it there, he can make it anywhere.
The mayor was born in 1961. Like his predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, de Blasio grew up in Massachusetts. Both men have been very successful in city politics even though they are avid Boston Red Sox fans.
De Blasio got his start in New York City politics when he successfully ran for district school board in Brooklyn in 1999. He served on the city council from 2002 to 2009 when he was elected “public advocate,” which is the No. 2 job in the city. He was elected mayor in 2013 and was re-elected in 2017.
Tale of two cities
De Blasio has a long association with the Clinton family but his approach to policy is pure Bernie Sanders.
While Bill Clinton was president, de Blasio served as a regional director of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. In 2000, he managed Hillary Clinton’s successful U.S. Senate campaign. Hillary Clinton swore the mayor into office in 2013.
The mayor endorsed Secretary Clinton over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in 2016 but he has governed like a Sanders progressive. The theme of his mayoral campaign was the tale of two cities. There was the city of wealthy New Yorkers who live on Park Avenue and another city like the South Bronx which is full of people struggling to stay afloat. As mayor, he has done a full Bernie and successfully pushed for a $15 an hour minimum wage, paid sick leave and universal pre- school education.
The mayor’s record in the area of criminal justice is a mixed bag. The crime rate has dropped significantly during de Blasio’s term, but the police force is openly hostile towards him. NYPD officers fault the mayor for his failure to raise their pay and for ending the city’s controversial stop and frisk policy. They feel he’s more sympathetic to people who are accused of crimes than he is to the officers who enforce the law. Recently, the president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association said “as commander in chief, he would be an unmitigated disaster.”
There also have been scandals in city government and the mass transit system is in dire straits.
His record as mayor could be attractive to liberal Democratic primary voters but there are already two strong progressives, Sanders who was born in New York City and Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts in the race.
De Blasio is running for president because he feels that he deserves credit for implementing the programs that Sanders and Warren can only talk about.
Presidential politics has not been kind to big city mayors. Two Big Apple mayors, John Lindsey and Rudy Giuliani ran for president and lost. Two big city Democrats, Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles and Mitch Landrieu of New Orleans considered 2020 bids but chose not to run. But a small city mayor, Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indi. has had a big impact on the Democratic race.
De Blasio’s announcement video makes two things clear.
He believes it takes another tough New Yorker to take on a bully like President Trump who he calls “Don the con.” The mayor may be right but after years of Trump bluster, Americans may want to do a 180 and nominate a candidate who has less sharp edges than de Blasio and Trump.
The mayor also thinks that income inequality is a big national problem. Since 1969, most economic gains have gone to the upper income 1 percent. Census Bureau data indicates that the one percenters share of the national income has doubled since 1969, while the incomes of everybody else has been stagnant.
Hope springs eternal
De Blasio has been considering a run for president for months, but he just announced his candidacy. The delay will make it difficult for him to qualify for the first Democratic presidential debate in Miami on June 26. Polls indicate that most New York City residents don’t think that he should run and even many of his supporters feel his campaign is a fool’s errand.
The mayor is now one of two dozen Democrats running for president and he starts out at the bottom with most of the other candidates.
The fight for the Democratic nomination is beginning to take shape. Former Vice President Joe Biden and Sanders are the frontrunners in the first tier. Sen. Kamala Harris of California, Warren and Buttigieg have made some progress but trail Biden and Sanders. Everybody else, including de Blasio are in the third and last tier.
However, the race is fluid and a stiff breeze could disturb the pecking order. De Blasio decided to run because he has overcome tough odds before. In his first race for mayor, he came out of the dust to beat an established candidate. Still hope springs eternal in the hearts of de Blasio and many of the other Democratic presidential candidates.