During the recently concluded Democratic mayoral primary, City Comptroller John Liu was a tireless campaigner. On a typical day, he made more than a dozen visits to locations in all five boroughs. Now that Bill de Blasio has won the primaries, Liu can maybe catch his breath and relax a bit.
“I’ve cut my visits in half to about seven a day now,” Liu said, enjoying a fruit drink at a Harlem McDonald’s last week.
He was obviously disappointed with the outcome of the race, and he was reminded of it minutes earlier at the Alhambra Ballroom, where he attended the Labor Breakfast sponsored by the Amsterdam News and Bill Lynch Associates. De Blasio was among the speakers.
“Bill Lynch was my teacher,” Liu, 46, said, choosing not to deal with de Blasio and reserving his comments on endorsements for a later date. Lynch, a peerless political consultant and advisor who died last month, helped Liu in his bid for office. “He kept pushing me, always believing in me.”
Unfortunately, not enough New Yorkers took those sentiments to the polls to vote for Liu, though early on, the rallies with labor backing seemed to give him solid footing.
“Right from the very start, the poll numbers were all wrong,” Liu explained. “And as a result, the mainstream media created a sense of hopelessness for my campaign. A kind of self-fulfilling prophecy then set in.”
One month before the election, Liu said, he was denied $3.5 million in finance campaign funds, a denial based on the outcome of a trial in which two of his aides were found guilty of funneling cash through straw donors to cheat the city out of public matching funds.
“All of these allegations of impropriety were perpetrated by The New York Times two years ago,” Liu asserted. “Where is the large fraud they talked about? For two years, there was an investigation, and they came up with nothing. When they couldn’t find anything on me, they went after my aides with this sting operation.”
As for the donors to this campaign, Liu said he and his team had “every reason to believe they were legitimate.” He wondered why the investigation was instigated in the first place.
“We had a huge brick wall in front of us, but this was not going to derail us. They mounted a witch hunt, but there was no witch.”
But to talk to some of his supporters, they are convinced that the scandal and the denial of funds were a one-two punch that doomed him, though he still managed to come in fourth place in the race, garnering more than 44,000 votes or 7 percent. So what now for the comptroller?
“I still have three and half months in office,” he said, “and there is the final audit that’s due and work to do on investments of the diversified portfolio of the pension fund, which is up 58 percent.”
Four years from now, might he consider another run for mayor? “Who knows what’s going to happen by then,” he sighed. “But I remain a committed public servant, and I will always find some way to be involved in public service.”