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NYC Mayor de Blasio joins long list of Dems seeking presidency

Updated May 16, 2019 - 6:55 am

NEW YORK CITY — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday that he will seek the Democratic nomination for president, adding his name to a list of nearly two dozen candidates itching for a chance to take on Donald Trump.

The mayor announced his run with a video released by his campaign.

“There’s plenty of money in this world. There’s plenty of money in this country. It’s just in the wrong hands,” de Blasio says at the beginning of the video.

He concludes: “I’m running for president because it’s time we put working people first.”

De Blasio was in Las Vegas in early April to speak with Culinary Union members.

Quick trading of barbs

Within an hour of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio joining the Democratic presidential race, he and President Donald Trump were already trading barbs.

During a Thursday morning appearance on “Good Morning America,” de Blasio borrowed one of Trump’s favorite tactics by giving the president a disparaging nickname: Con Don.

“He’s a con artist. I know his tricks I know his playbook,” the mayor said.

Trump tweeted that de Blasio is “considered the worst mayor in the U.S.”

The president added, “but if you like high taxes & crime, he’s your man. NYC HATES HIM!”

In announcing his candidacy, de Blasio is seeking to claim a role on the national stage that has eluded him as mayor of the biggest U.S. city.

When he took office in 2014, de Blasio seemed briefly poised to become a leading voice for an emerging left wing of the Democratic Party.

But liberal enthusiasm faded over his first term, partly because of political missteps at home and the emergence of bigger names elsewhere. He could face obstacles trying to distinguish himself in a crowded field.

Small audiences to date

De Blasio, 58, has drawn small audiences so far in visits to early primary states including Iowa, South Carolina, Nevada and New Hampshire, where an audience of six showed up for a mental health discussion.

A recent Quinnipiac University poll found 76% of New York City voters say they believe he shouldn’t run.

De Blasio’s hometown press has, so far, delighted in disparaging his presidential hopes.

“De Blasio for President? ‘Nah,’” read one recent New York Times headline summing up the city’s reaction to his possible candidacy.

“Who hasn’t told Bill de Blasio that he shouldn’t run for president?” asked New York Magazine.

De Blasio, though, has remained undaunted by the obstacles and said he believes he has a message that can resonate with the American public.

Political observers said that even if de Blasio’s candidacy doesn’t catch fire, he’ll be able to promote his policies and potentially angle for a job in a future Democratic administration. He is barred by term limits from running for mayor again.

“If he ran a strong and credible campaign, it could enhance his stature for gaining a major appointment or becoming a significant player, particularly if a Democrat is elected president,” said Michael Malbin, a professor of political science at the University at Albany.

Bid comes with risks

But Matthew Dallek, an associate professor of political management at George Washington University, said a losing White House campaign wouldn’t come without risks.

“If his legacy is that a crisis happened and he was off campaigning in Iowa, that’s significant,” Dallek said. “So yeah, there are risks.”

On the campaign trail, de Blasio will be able to cite accomplishments like expanding full-day prekindergarten and curtailing police tactics that critics said were discriminatory, while presiding over continued drops in violent crime.

His central message remains fighting income inequality.

De Blasio was born Warren Wilhelm Jr. in 1961 but took his mother’s family name in adulthood because, he said, his father was “largely absent from his life.” The mayor has spoken about how his father, Warren Wilhelm, a veteran who lost part of his left leg in World War II, descended into alcoholism and killed himself when de Blasio was 18.

Born in New York City, de Blasio grew up in the Boston area and has provoked New York sports fans by rooting ardently for the Boston Red Sox. He graduated from New York University and earned a master’s degree from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.

De Blasio met his wife, Chirlane McCray, when they both worked for Democratic Mayor David Dinkins. They married in 1994 and have two children, Chiara and Dante.

De Blasio was elected to a local school board in his Brooklyn neighborhood in 1999 and won a City Council seat in 2001. In 2009, he was elected to the citywide position of public advocate, a job that holds little real power but comes with a bully pulpit that allowed de Blasio to build a reputation as a champion of regular citizens in a city built for the powerful.

He was not initially favored to win the 2013 race for the Democratic nomination for mayor but was helped by the implosion of rival Anthony Weiner’s campaign after the disgraced former congressman was accused in a new sexting scandal.

De Blasio defeated Republican Joe Lhota by a wide margin in the 2013 general election for mayor. He won reelection in 2017, defeating Republican state Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis by 39 percentage points.

With his candidacy, de Blasio becomes the latest in a line of New York City mayors who have run for president. None has ever won.

John Lindsay sought the office in 1972. Rudy Giuliani ran in 2008. Michael Bloomberg flirted with a run for years before ruling it out in both the 2016 and 2020 campaigns.

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