De Blasio pitches himself as tough New Yorker who can take on 'Don the con'

De Blasio pitches himself as tough New Yorker who can take on 'Don the con'
© Getty Images

Start spreading the news. Bill de BlasioBill de BlasioNew York City lawmakers vote to close Rikers Island jail by 2026 2020 Presidential Candidates Cooperate, or else: New York threatens fines to force people to help block immigration enforcement MORE, the mayor of New York City has jumped into the race for the Democratic presidential nomination. De Blasio believes if he can make it there, he can make it anywhere. 

The mayor was born in 1961. Like his predecessor, Michael BloombergMichael Rubens BloombergFrom learning on his feet to policy director Biden struggles to reverse fall Democrats' debate divisions open the race to new (or old) faces MORE, de Blasio grew up in Massachusetts. Both men have been very successful in city politics even though they are avid Boston Red Sox fans.


De Blasio got his start in New York City politics when he successfully ran for district school board in Brooklyn in 1999. He served on the city council from 2002 to 2009 when he was elected “public advocate,” which is the No. 2 job in the city. He was elected mayor in 2013 and was re-elected in 2017.

Tale of two cities

De Blasio has a long association with the Clinton family but his approach to policy is pure Bernie SandersBernie SandersWarren to protest with striking Chicago teachers Sanders: 'Outrageous' to suggest Gabbard 'is a foreign asset' Democratic strategist: Sanders seeking distance from Warren could 'backfire' MORE.

While Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonHouse Democrat pledges 'there will be open hearings' in impeachment inquiry Democrats dig in ahead of Supreme Court ruling on 'Dreamers' Even with likely Trump impeachment, Democrats face uphill climb to win presidency MORE was president, de Blasio served as a regional director of the Department of Housing and Urban Development. In 2000, he managed Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonSanders: 'Outrageous' to suggest Gabbard 'is a foreign asset' Clinton attacks on Gabbard become flashpoint in presidential race Saagar Enjeti: Clinton remarks on Gabbard 'shows just how deep the rot in our system goes' MORE’s successful U.S. Senate campaign. Hillary Clinton swore the mayor into office in 2013.

The mayor endorsed Secretary Clinton over Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) in 2016 but he has governed like a Sanders progressive. The theme of his mayoral campaign was the tale of two cities. There was the city of wealthy New Yorkers who live on Park Avenue and another city like the South Bronx which is full of people struggling to stay afloat. As mayor, he has done a full Bernie and successfully pushed for a $15 an hour minimum wage, paid sick leave and universal pre- school education.

The mayor’s record in the area of criminal justice is a mixed bag. The crime rate has dropped significantly during de Blasio’s term, but the police force is openly hostile towards him. NYPD officers fault the mayor for his failure to raise their pay and for ending the city’s controversial stop and frisk policy. They feel he’s more sympathetic to people who are accused of crimes than he is to the officers who enforce the law. Recently, the president of the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association said “as commander in chief, he would be an unmitigated disaster.”

There also have been scandals in city government and the mass transit system is in dire straits.

His record as mayor could be attractive to liberal Democratic primary voters but there are already two strong progressives, Sanders who was born in New York City and Sen. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenWarren to protest with striking Chicago teachers Overnight Health Care — Presented by Partnership for America's Health Care Future — Four companies reach 0M settlement in opioid lawsuit | Deal opens door to larger settlements | House panel to consider vaping tax | Drug pricing markup tomorrow On The Money: Trump dismisses 'phony Emoluments Clause' after Doral criticism | Senate Dems signal support for domestic spending package | House panel to consider vaping tax MORE of Massachusetts in the race. De Blasio is running for president because he feels that he deserves credit for implementing the programs that Sanders and Warren can only talk about.

Presidential politics has not been kind to big city mayors. Two Big Apple mayors, John Lindsey and Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiTrump says he doesn't want NYT in the White House Diplomat who raised Ukraine concerns to testify in Trump impeachment probe Pelosi releases 'fact sheet' saying Trump has 'betrayed his oath of office' MORE ran for president and lost. Two big city Democrats, Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles and Mitch Landrieu of New Orleans considered 2020 bids but chose not to run. But a small city mayor, Pete ButtigiegPeter (Pete) Paul ButtigiegSanders: 'Outrageous' to suggest Gabbard 'is a foreign asset' Hillicon Valley: Facebook removes Russian, Iranian accounts trying to interfere in 2020 | Zuckerberg on public relations blitz | Uncertainty over Huawei ban one month out Clinton attacks on Gabbard become flashpoint in presidential race MORE of South Bend, Indi. has had a big impact on the Democratic race. 

De Blasio’s announcement video makes two things clear.  

He believes it takes another tough New Yorker to take on a bully like President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump says he doesn't want NYT in the White House Veterans group backs lawsuits to halt Trump's use of military funding for border wall Schiff punches back after GOP censure resolution fails MORE who he calls “Don the con.” The mayor may be right but after years of Trump bluster, Americans may want to do a 180 and nominate a candidate who has less sharp edges than de Blasio and Trump.

The mayor also thinks that income inequality is a big national problem. Since 1969, most economic gains have gone to the upper income 1 percent. Census Bureau data indicates that the one percenters share of the national income has doubled since 1969, while the incomes of everybody else has been stagnant. 

Hope springs eternal

De Blasio has been considering a run for president for months, but he just announced his candidacy. The delay will make it difficult for him to qualify for the first Democratic presidential debate in Miami on June 26. Polls indicate that most New York City residents don’t think that he should run and even many of his supporters feel his campaign is a fool’s errand.

The mayor is now one of two dozen Democrats running for president and he starts out at the bottom with most of the other candidates.


The fight for the Democratic nomination is beginning to take shape. Former Vice President Joe BidenJoe BidenTrump says he doesn't want NYT in the White House Warren to protest with striking Chicago teachers Schiff punches back after GOP censure resolution fails MORE and Sanders are the frontrunners in the first tier. Sen. Kamala HarrisKamala Devi HarrisClinton attacks on Gabbard become flashpoint in presidential race Poll: Biden holds 10-point lead nationally over Warren Trump declines to participate in Weather Channel 2020 climate change special MORE of California, Warren and Buttigieg have made some progress but trail Biden and Sanders. Everybody else, including de Blasio are in the third and last tier.

However, the race is fluid and a stiff breeze could disturb the pecking order. De Blasio decided to run because he has overcome tough odds before. In his first race for mayor, he came out of the dust to beat an established candidate. Still hope springs eternal in the hearts of de Blasio and many of the other Democratic presidential candidates.

Brad Bannon is a Democratic pollster and CEO of Bannon Communications Research. He is also the host of a radio podcast “Dateline D.C. With Brad Bannon” that airs on the Progressive Voices Network. Follow him on Twitter @BradBannon.

This is the 16th piece in a series of profiles by Bannon on 2020 Democratic hopefuls. Read his analysis on Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Rep. Seth Moulton (D-Mass.), Sen. Cory Booker (D-New Jersey), Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.), Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio)Mayor Pete ButtigiegSen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s (D-N.Y.), former Rep. Beto O’Rourkeformer Govs. Jay Inslee and John Hickenlooper, former Vice President Joe BidenSen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), former HUD Secretary Julian CastroSen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) and Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.)