Because there must never be an end to election season (ever), this week marks the kickoff of the campaign to be Mayor of New York City starting in 2014. Democratic and Republican primaries will be held in late summer with the general election face-off in November. Municipal elections tend to be dreary low-turnout affairs, but after 12 years of Michael Bloomberg – and 20 of a Republican or independent mayor in this deep-blue city – this election will set the tone for the future of New York City in a critical way.
Here’s a rundown of the candidates – from the left to the right, the accomplished to the utterly ridiculous. Polls show closely-matched races between the top-tier primary candidates, and all Democratic comers posting 40-50 point leads over their Republican competition. Let the games begin.
Christine Quinn. 46, gay, and the Speaker of the City Council, Quinn came from a background in grassroots organizing before rising quickly through city politics. She’s emerged as a close ally of Bloomberg, voting with him to orchestrate an extension of term limits that allowed the both of them to continue in their positions four years longer than city law would typically have allowed. Whip-smart and ambitious, her powerful supporters include Vogue editrix Anna Wintour and, tacitly, the mayor himself, who has called her the only rational Democratic candidate. She has boatloads of money and celebrity power to match. Will her alliance with the mayor – and a nasty-looking slush fund scandal from a few years back – bring her down in the eyes of a liberal primary electorate seeking change?
Bill de Blasio, 51, announced yesterday in Park Slope. De Blasio, currently the city’s Public Advocate, worked as an aide in the Clinton White House before stepping down to run Hillary’s 2000 senate campaign. After her victory, he won a seat on the City Council before moving up to city-wide elected office, where he has established himself as a good-government guru, disagreeing with Bloomberg on pocketbook issues like paid sick leave but endorsing the mayor’s environmental and health policies. The most liberal of the primary candidates, de Blasio is pitching himself as a mayor for strong neighborhoods and often-overlooked outer boroughs. While lacking Quinn’s muscle with the business community, de Blasio has strong ties with labor and if he manages to bring in the Clintons on his behalf, all bets are off.
Bill Thompson, 59, was the Democratic nominee for mayor four years ago, running closer to Bloomberg than expected even though he was vastly outspent and many Democrats (including Quinn) endorsed him only grudgingly. Formerly the city comptroller, Thompson brings a wonkish grasp of policy detail to the table, although his quiet personality can make him tough to listen to. As the only big-league candidate of color from either major party, Thompson will have a large natural base of voters from which to build.
Current city comptroller John Liu would have been a heavy favorite but for a massive campaign-finance scandal that has deeply tarnished his reputation. He insists he’s still going to run, but it’s hard to see him eking out a win.
Former city councilman Sal Albanese probably lacks the currency and muscle to win a heavyweight primary.
New Yorkers seeking a return to the Giuliani days have their man in Joe Lhota. Up until two weeks ago, Lhota was the head of the MTA; however he resigned and has announced that he will contest the Republican primary. A top deputy to Giuliani, his reputation was tarnished by a series of big-ticket blowups; but he has inroads with the business community that can’t be matched by anyone on the Democratic side, plus a knowledge of city policy that evades many of his fellow Republicans. Watch for him and Quinn to split the pro-Bloomberg factions of city politics.
You might recognize the name of John Catsimatidis from various NYU buildings he’s named. The CEO of Gristedes Supermarkets (whose pneumatic marvel of a daughter graduated from NYU last year) showed interest in running for the position in 2009, only to back down when Bloomberg ran again. He’d bring business experience and connections to the NYC philanthropic and social scene to bear, although his penchant for off-the-cuff remarks (the last one, about taxes and the Holocaust, was particularly grating) might spell his doom.
State Senator Malcolm Smith has switched parties and allegiances so many times it’s hard to take him seriously anymore.
Manhattan Media CEO Tom Allon switched from the Democratic to the Republican primary in what seemed to most people like a desparate gasp for attention and money.
The Ridiculous(ly awesome):
Jimmy McMillan; Because the rent is too damn high.