After nearly half a year of hemming and hawing, Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday entered the 2020 presidential race, becoming the 23rd Democrat to join the jam-packed field.
The termed-out politician, known for his habitual tardiness, finally decided to run after five months of toying with a White House bid.
“I’m Bill de Blasio and I’m running for president because it’s time we put working people first,” the mayor said in a three-minute YouTube video announcing his candidacy.
He details his “Working People First” slogan by touting his policy initiatives including pre-K for all and paid sick leave.
He then pivots to a national message.
“As president will take on the wealthy, I will take on the big corporations, and I will not rest until this government serves working people,” he says.
He also vows to take on the incumbent.
“Donald Trump must be stopped,” he says.
Insiders initially thought de Blasio would announce his national campaign the week of his 58th birthday on May 8, but he delayed.
“So you’re still deciding?” NY1’s Errol Louis asked the mayor on May 6.
“Yes indeed,” the dithering mayor said.
Local political experts can’t fathom what prompted the mayor to take the plunge.
“It’s really hard to understand what lane de Blasio plans to ride to the nomination,” said David Birdsell, dean of the Marxe School of Public and International Affairs at CUNY’s Baruch College.
What’s more, people just don’t like him, polls show.
De Blasio has the dubious distinction of being the only candidate or potential candidate out of 23 contenders to earn a negative rating among national Democrats in a March Monmouth University survey. A total of 24 percent gave him a thumbs down while just 18 percent had a favorable view of him.
At home, the numbers are even worse. A staggering 76 percent of Big Apple voters don’t think he should run, according to an April Quinnipiac University Poll.
Since de Blasio was elected the 109th mayor in 2013 on a “Tale of Two Cities” platform he’s disappointed many of the liberals who put him in office.
The city’s long-struggling Housing Authority collapsed under the weight of a lead-poisoning scandal, culminating in a federal lawsuit alleging a massive cover-up of toxic living conditions and a repair bill that hit an eye-watering $32 billion in 2018.
De Blasio was forced to accept federal oversight of NYCHA to settle a lawsuit brought by Manhattan federal prosecutors and has embraced the partial privatization — once an anathema — as one way to pay for renovations at many of its 325 projects.
While NYCHA rotted, the city’s homelessness crisis ballooned. Roughly 60,000 New Yorkers are now living on the streets, while the administration struggles to battle back neighborhood opposition to new homeless shelters.
Continuing probes alleged pay-to-play schemes have dogged de Blasio’s mayoralty.
The state’s Joint Commission on Public Ethics is still investigating his shuttered Campaign For One New York, a nonprofit that folded in 2016 after taking in $4.3 million to promote his pet-projects including pre-K expansion.
De Blasio ducked federal and state charges in 2017, after he was accused of handing out favors in exchange for donations to his political group.
But the city Department of Investigation concluded in 2018 that the mayor hit up individuals and companies with matters pending before city agencies to fill the coffers of the Campaign for One New York.
And the corruption claims linger.
City Comptroller Scott Stringer has subpoenaed the mayor for information about a $173 million real estate deal with developers Stuart and Jay Podolsky who are represented by politically connected Brooklyn attorney Frank Carone.
The city paid the Podolskys $30 million above the appraised price for 21 buildings in the Bronx and Brooklyn to create more affordable housing. Carone donated $5,000 to de Blasio’s Fairness PAC last fall.
The mayor has defended the price tag saying it was cheaper than taking the properties by eminent domain. He’s also said there was nothing wrong with accepting Carone’s cash because it was cleared by his lawyers.
The scandal will likely follow de Blasio on the campaign trail where he’d rather talk up his progressive message of free pre-K and paid sick leave.
They’re the two shining examples from his time at City Hall. Before he took office in 2013 there were under 20,000 city kids in public prekindergarten. Now 70,000 4-year-olds are enrolled in the free program. In March 2014 he signed a bill requiring city employers to give up to five paid sick days to their workers each year.
De Blasio has laid some groundwork for the campaign—talking to small crowds in Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.
He spoke to 20 people in Concord, New Hampshire in March and just nine in Pahrump, Nevada in April.
He heads to Iowa and South Carolina again this weekend.
He doesn’t have much time to convince would-be voters why he’s the one to take on President Donald Trump.
The first Democratic debate is in Miami on June 26 and 27. De Blasio may not even qualify for the debate because his poll numbers don’t meet the 1 percent threshold.
History is also not on de Blasio’s side.
“There are reasons why mayors of New York City haven’t done well in national politics and that’s because people don’t associate with their problems with those problems,” Birdsell, the CUNY dean, said.
The checkered past goes back to 1812 when New York City mayor DeWitt Clinton lost to incumbent James Madison. John Lindsay’s 1972 White House bid petered out during the primaries and Rudy Giuliani came up short in 2008.
The mayor must spend time bulking up his campaign team. His Fairness PAC, which has organized his recent out-of-state visits, currently has a largely volunteer, skeleton staff.
It’s led by Jon Paul Lupo, who took a leave from his city position as Director of Intergovernmental Affairs and is using vacation days to work on the PAC. Deputy press secretary Olivia Lapeyrolerie and Deputy Director of Executive Operations Alexandra Kopel are also using on leave and using their time off to boost the mayor’s 2020 bid.
Former top aide Mike Casca, who’d worked on Sen. Bernie Sander’s previous presidential run, first left City Hall for the PAC then cut ties from de Blasio all together earlier this month.
Finally, the mayor’s longtime press secretary, Eric Phillips, decamped for the private sector in April.