Open season for mayor's race kicks into high gear, one year early
The race to succeed Michael Bloomberg as the 109th mayor of New York next year is picking up speed -- and intrigue.
Already, the names of high-powered figures such as departing Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, Police Commissioner Ray Kelly and MTA chief Joseph Lhota have been floated with varying degrees of enthusiasm. Clinton and Kelly are said to have no interest in the City Hall hotseat, but Lhota, who was a deputy mayor under Rudy Giuliani and is riding the crest of quickly restoring the transit system after superstorm Sandy, is seriously considering a run.
He joins a crowded field that already includes Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and City Comptroller John Liu, but like Lhota, they are coyly staying mum on the rumors.
(From left, Quinn, Lhota, de Blasio, Liu and Thompson: Getty Images)
So far, the only two candidates to formally get in the race are Manhattan Media publisher Tom Allon, who's running as a Republican, and and former City Comptroller Bill Thompson, a Democrat, who's s taking another shot after losing to Bloomberg in the last election.
Political experts say they aren't surprised by the hype or the secrecy because voters are hungry and eager to see a new leader after three terms of one mayor,and the contenders are strategically looking for ways to tap into New Yorker's needs.
"There are people out there who think that 12 years of Bloomberg are too much," said Christina Greer, an assistant professor of political science at Fordham University.
Greer said all of the potential candidates got the wheels greased for their election runs the minute Bloomberg announced his third term, because they knew the race would be a competitive free for all.
Quinnd leads the pack, Greer said, because she constantly hit the airwaves on various topical issues, including gay marriage, and takes stances on issues without alienating the large amount of supporters who back Bloomberg.
In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, however, all of the potential contenders, no matter how popular or politically powerful they are, have the chance to show voters what they can offer during the next four years.
Whether it's Lhota's handling of the subway restoration, or Liu's updates on the financial solutions to the storm's recovery, New Yorkers will remember their actions during election season.
"What a disaster like Hurricane Sandy does is it focuses the spotlight on qualities of leadership during a campaign," said Patrick Egan, an assistant professor of politics and public policy at NYU.
Although the election is less than a year away, the experts say that any candidate that seriously wants the seat needs to get a move on.
Voters are already savvy enough to know who the top runners are, and for figures like Lhota or former Congressman Anthony Weiner, who has been rumored to make a comeback, they have to demonstrate why they're the best pick, according to Andrew Moesel, a political consultant.
"Can they translate their recent popularity into a clear campaign strategy? That's the main question," he said.
State Sen. Tony Avella (D-Bayside), who lost in the mayoral Democratic Primary in 2009, agreed that every candidate who seriously wants to be the next mayor has to hit the ground running now and address the needs of each of the five boroughs.
"The big thing is the amount of traveling you have to do. There are so many community meetings, candidate nights and other events and it's hard to make every one," he recalled.
Avella is running for Queens borough President this fall, but he advised the candidates to enjoy their campaigns because it can help them grow as public servants.
"Win lose or draw it is a great experience if you take it for what it's worth," he said.
Primary date limbo could shake up mayoral election: Experts
The candidates vying to succeed Mayor Michael Bloomberg have another potential obstacle to face that isn't on a ballot: Time.
The state Legislature is mulling to change the city and state primaries from September to June to match the date of federal primaries..
Experts say the timing would be crucial for the mayoral contenders, especially the four members who are set to face in the Democratic Primary, because they would have to speed up their campaigning.
"During the summer, most people aren't paying attention to politics," said Christina Greer, an associate political science professor at Fordham University.
A summer primary, however, could be advantageous for the winning candidate, according to another expert.
Andrew Moesel, a political consultant, said the primary might be very contentious because of the number of Democratic big names running and the extra two months could go a long way if they face a serious Republican.
"They can have more time to rebound from that bloodbath and focus on the election," he said.