Democratic mayoral nominee Bill de Blasio thinks he is sitting pretty. After saying that every vote counts, runner-up Bill Thompson conceded on Monday—the very day the Board of Elections began counting the paper ballots.
This left de Blasio to host a huge City Hall press conference, which brought out Democratic bigwig endorsers like Thompson, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, Rep. Greg Meeks, City Councilman Al Vann and Hazel Dukes.
Completely trounced in third place at 15 percent, Christine Quinn held her press conference endorsing de Blasio the next day on the steps of City Hall. With the same gusto Thompson exhibited the day before, she declared that this was a time for Democratic unity and cited a serious need for there to be a Democratic mayor in City Hall.
According to a poll by Edison Research, last week, de Blasio captured the majority vote in the primary in all the main demographic groups: men at 44 percent, women at 42 percent, whites at 46 percent, Blacks at 44 percent and Latinos at 41 percent.
De Blasio said that Thompson’s nod was a “crucial moment and very, very important to this campaign. Both Bill and Christine have very substantial coalitions—major elected officials, community activists, unions—and they brought all of that with them and made a huge difference to this campaign. This is an extraordinary example of Democratic unity in this city, where at times, Democrats have not been on the same page. This time, everyone is resolved to take back City Hall have 20 years.”
De Blasio is fairly confident. He quotes the “broad-based nature of our victory,” and the substantial number of Thompson and Quinn supporters who have already jumped on the bandwagon. “I don’t think there are too many outliers at this point—the vast majority are very comfortable joining our coalition. There may be a few exceptions, but I have not seen a lot of evidence of that,” de Blasio said.
Touting his “Tale of Two Cities” rhetoric, de Blasio himself can be perceived as divisive as the socially divided community he describes; those on the right scream that de Blasio is a terrifying radical, while those closer to the left of the center debate if he is even a progressive. Charges of him being a flip-flopper are nothing new to him. However, he rejects both assumptions.
“I have been a progressive my whole life, back to my activist years in college. My first partisan experience was working with David Dinkins on his 1989 mayoral campaign, which was obviously very progressive. I think my roots and my history as a progressive is very clear, and the people of the city saw that.”
Some observers point out that he seemed to flip-flop on issues such as stop-and-frisk, term limits and being a big supporter of the developers—from Yankee Stadium, to New York University (NYU) and Columbia University and their expansion plans—but in the final analysis, despite his original position, de Blasio said that at the “crucial moment,” he supported the right side.
“I have taken a critical and progressive view towards development. My appointee as a city planning commissioner was the only one to vote against the first NYU expansion plan; obviously, I have focused on demanding more affordable housing from the real estate industry. Throughout my career, I have been willing to take on powerful forces on the term limits question. What mattered is that when the historic moment came—when it was actually time to decide on the issue, when I saw how the mayor was undermining the democratic process and I saw what the effects would have been in allowing him to succeed—I led the opposition against it. I think if someone takes the right stance and acts energetically on it at the moment of history—when it actually matters—that’s the way to judge them.”
To those who state that de Blasio was for stop-and-frisk before he was against it, the candidate touchily replied, “First of all, with all due respect, that is plainly not accurate. I never ever changed my position on stop-and-frisk.”
The Brooklyn resident previously said that stop-and-frisk was an important tool of the New York Police Department and then campaigned later saying how he would make great changes to the racially profiling practice.
“I said from the beginning that the overuse of stop-and-frisk has created immense problems, that the only way to use it is constitutionally and appropriately, which by definition means it would be used a lot less frequently.”
Regarding the Community Safety Act, he said, “I absoloutely agree with an independent inspector general—not named by the police commissioner, named by the mayor to be independent. And I agreed with the racial profiling bill.”
He said that this week’s poll, which has him leading Republican opponent Joe Lhota 65 percent to 22 percent, is “very gratifying and certainly provides evidence that my message of fighting inequality is resonating broadly across the city—not just amongst Democrats.”
“We know we have a lot of work ahead. We know that it is going to be a hard-fought general election campaign, obviously; Republicans have controlled City Hall for the last 20 years. That is a sobering reality. We are going to work very hard for every vote. We are going to speak about inequality. We are going to speak about what government can do to serve people who are experiencing tremendous economic distress. It will be a very progressive vision, a very different vision from Bloomberg’s.”
Learning from President Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns, de Blasio said, “We are going to have an extraordinary ground operation to make sure that people who agree with my vision will turn out to vote.”
According to de Blasio, he had a “very neighborhood-based [campaign], and that proved to be highly effective.” Not to mention the support he had from 1199SEIU, who were able to mobilize their members, and his strategy to build on that and the support of other unions to get out the vote.
His plan to tax the rich to help the not-so-rich has come under fire from a host of people who say that a mayor has no power to enforce something like this, which lies under the state government’s jurisdiction.
“I believe there will be tremendous public support for this idea, and that will fuel our effort to win in Albany. I think the history is that when mayors go to Albany with popular support, with the support of City Council, Albany defers to the localities’ rights to make its own decision about its own taxation.”
De Blasio’s extensive use of his family in the campaign swayed some voters and raised the ire of others. Mayor Michael Bloomberg slammed the tactic as “racist” and was immediately attacked in response.
“My family will continue to be actively involved in the campaign,” de Blasio said. “The people have renounced Bloomberg’s view; his comments were inappropriate and confusing. We are proud to present a message of what our family is and what we believe in, and [that] is very consistent in what I hope to do for this city. The fact that we won the primary outright is an extraordinary affirmation.”
Will his son, Dante, be featured in the campaign going forward or will de Blasio be retiring the much featured, much talked about Afro of his 16-year-old son?
“I mean, it’s who he is,” de Blasio said. “He has been growing it since he was in the third grade. He’s very proud of it, and I don’’t think he has any intention of changing any time soon. But more importantly than the hair, Dante, [my daughter] Chiara [and my wife] Chirlane will be very, very active in the campaign.”