June 9, 2016 8:59 p.m
By JOSH DAWSEY
|AGATON STROM FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL|
|Patrick Lynch, president of Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, in November 2015 protesting salary contract negotiations.|
New York City’s largest police union is planning to launch an independent political campaign against Mayor Bill de Blasio’s 2017 re-election bid, and its leader has already begun meeting with potential challengers.
“We want someone who is not always running a campaign and is running the city,” Patrick Lynch, president of Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, said in an interview this week. “He is just issuing press releases.”
Mr. Lynch, who has long had an acrimonious relationship with Mr. de Blasio, said he planned to launch the campaign by the end of the summer. The campaign has a seven-figure budget, a person familiar with the matter said.
Arguments against the mayor would focus on his management style and crime, said Mr. Lynch, who said he has begun meeting with tenant associations in public-housing projects and other union leaders. Next year’s election should be a referendum on safety, he said.
Karen Hinton, a spokeswoman for Mr. de Blasio, defended the mayor’s record.
“Creating almost 70,000 pre-K seats for young children, requiring developers to build over 200,000 affordable apartments and reducing crime by over 6% speaks for itself,” Ms. Hinton said. “That is the way to run a city.”
In the past two weeks, Mr. Lynch has met with Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and city Comptroller Scott Stringer, both of whom are Democrats like the mayor and have been mentioned as possible challengers to Mr. de Blasio.
Mr. Lynch is working with Tusk Strategies, a consulting firm headed by Bradley Tusk, a longtime adviser to former Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The firm said it dropped Mr. Bloomberg as a client before launching the effort to unseat Mr. de Blasio.
Mr. Tusk, who served as campaign manager on Mr. Bloomberg’s successful 2009 re-election campaign, has created a website devoted to defeating Mr. de Blasio. His firm has sparred with the mayor’s office on several issues, such as the ride-hailing company Uber and charter schools, with success.
Mr. de Blasio’s approval rating has fallen as he has faced multiple federal and state investigations into his fundraising activities and administration. Mr. de Blasio has denied any wrongdoing.
Asked about Mr. Tusk earlier this week, Mr. de Blasio said: “He can do what he wants.” The mayor urged reporters to “follow the money” as it relates to Mr. Tusk’s efforts.
Mr. de Blasio noted Mr. Tusk worked for former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who was convicted of corruption charges and removed from office.
“It’s kind of ironic that Mayor de Blasio is telling other people to follow the money,” said Patrick Muncie, who works for Mr. Tusk on the union’s campaign. “With all the time the mayor is spending fielding questions from reporters and prosecutors about his investigations, the mayor knows about following the money.”
Mr. Lynch said Mr. Stringer had a “different vision” for the city than Mr. de Blasio. He said Mr. Diaz empathized with the union’s concerns. Spokesmen for Messrs Diaz and Stringer declined to comment on the meetings.
The union didn’t endorse a mayoral candidate in 2013.
Police pay has been at the center of the union’s battle with the mayor.
Mr. Lynch has argued that police officers should get higher raises than other uniformed city employees because of the dangers of the job. In a blow to the union last year, a state arbitration panel awarded raises to officers that were in line with those received by other uniformed workers.
Mr. Lynch said the mayor’s office has a “closed-door” policy when it comes to his union, a notion the mayor’s aides deny.
This year, crime has continued to fall in the five boroughs, with murders and other violent offenses dropping, even as they rise in other large cities. Mr. de Blasio campaigned in 2013 on a plan to overhaul the New York Police Department and improve its relationship with New Yorkers. Since taking office in 2014, his relationship with the force has been contentious.
After two officers were killed in December 2014 following days of protests over police-involved deaths, hundreds of officers turned their backs on the mayor in a display of their disapproval with his leadership. At the time, Mr. Lynch said Mr. de Blasio had “blood on the hands,” a remark that more than three-quarters of city voters described as “too extreme” in a January 2015 poll.
Mr. de Blasio worked to repair relations with the police, but polls have consistently shown New Yorkers believe crime is a serious problem and the city is heading in the wrong direction.
Officials at other police unions didn’t respond Thursday to requests for comment. Many of the city’s large unions, including the United Federation of Teachers, have supported the mayor’s policies and are expected to back his re-election.
Write to Josh Dawsey at JOSHUA.DAWSEY@dowjones.com