August 8, 2016, 4:00 AM
BY JENNIFER FERMINO
|Bradley Tusk was a long-time political consultant to former Mayor Michael Bloomberg. (HOWARD SIMMONS/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)|
Two months ago, Howard Wolfson, a former deputy Mayor under Michael Bloomberg who still works for the politically active billionaire, received an odd request.
Bloomberg's long-time political consultant Bradley Tusk called Wolfson to say he wanted to end his contract with the billionaire ex-mayor.
The 42-year-old didn't say why, but within weeks it became apparent.
Tusk, Bloomberg's 2009 campaign manager, was violating Bloomberg's rule not to publicly criticize his successor and starting a one-consultant crusade against de Blasio.
Dubbed “NYC Deserves Better,” it basically consists of constantly needling the mayor on issues like education, affordable housing and — most frequently — the numerous federal probes into City Hall fundraising.
In a brilliant bit of showmanship, Tusk even publicly offered a job interview to a disgruntled ex-city official whose take-this-job-and-shove-it Facebook post bemoaning “political hacks” at City Hall went viral.
The personal vendetta against de Blasio, who he says he has only met one time briefly, was borne out of his frustration with City Hall, he said.
“This is a real departure from the quality of leadership (at City Hall) we've had over the last 20 years,” said Tusk.
|Tusk called Wolfson to say he wanted to end his contract with the billionaire ex-mayor. (CRAIG WARGA/NYDN/NY DAILY NEWS)|
Taking on a sitting mayor because you don't like him is an unusual move for a political consultant — and more than a few people don't believe that animosity is the sole driving force.
He's a former consultant for Uber, and reps the pro-charter group Students First New York, and the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, all of which have a history of fighting with de Blasio.
“It's a money play,” said Bill Hyers, de Blasio's 2013 campaign manager and a confidante of the mayor. “His business model is, I'm going to be against de Blasio, and I'm going to advertise myself as, ‘If you want to beat him up, hire me.’”
Brad Gerstman, a lobbyist on progressive issues who frequently finds himself on the other side of Tusk, agreed.
“He's the lobbyist for the 1%,” said Gerstman.
Tusk can't argue that he's not making money — he's doing so well he and his wife are starting their own charitable foundation — but insisted that his anti-de Blasio campaign isn't helping his business, which he said is mostly out of New York.
Those clients that are in New York are mostly “supportive,” but hands off, he said.
PBA President Patrick Lynch, whose 2014 beef with the mayor had cops turning their backs on Hizzoner, said his union wasn't involved “but it's no surprise to us that Brad Tusk has undertaken this effort or that it's gaining traction.”
Tusk said he lost out on a consulting contract with the non-profit Robin Hood Foundation because they didn't want to be associated with someone waging war with the mayor.
One exec with a former Tusk client said the company has concerns about being linked to the campaign.
“You always want a good relationship with the mayor,” said the exec.
Tusk faces other problems as well.
Although de Blasio has had a rough few months because of the federal probes swirling around him, taking down an incumbent mayor is very difficult, and a recent poll showed de Blasio still has high approval ratings among the black voters who helped elect him the first time around.
|PBA president Pat Lynch said his union wasn't involved in the campaign. (JEFF BACHNER/FOR NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)|
And most importantly, no one so far seems prepared to challenge him in a Democratic primary, which even Tusk concedes is probably necessary to knock de Blasio out.
An aide to the mayor said City Hall is unconcerned.
“Under Mayor de Blasio crime is down to historic lows, graduation rates and test scores are up, and jobs are at an all-time high. That's a record New Yorkers will enthusiastically support,” Phil Walzak, de Blasio's senior advisor said.
But Tusk can make things unpleasant for de Blasio.
Future plans include a possible “Did de Blasio come to Work Today” app, which will crowdsource de Blasio sightings at City Hall, giving him an exercise bike so he can work out at Gracie Mansion instead of in Brooklyn, and asking him to submit time sheets to show how much he works, according to a strategy memo.
|During the City Hall race, Tusk said he will accept donations from like-minded de Blasio haters and run ads against him. (HOWARD SIMMONS/NEW YORK DAILY NEWS)|
“Cheap gimmickry,” sniffed an aide to the mayor.
During the City Hall race, Tusk said he will accept donations from like-minded de Blasio haters and run ads against him, which could hurt the mayor in the same way the early negative campaign ads from “Anybody But Quinn” hurt former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn during the 2013 race, say political experts.
“The ads were unrelenting, and had to soften her support,” said Kenneth Sherrill, professor emeritus of political science at Hunter College. “That could weaken him as well.”
Tusk said he won't stop until de Blasio is gone.
“I made the choice to do it, and I'm not going to turn around,” he said.