Mayor Bill de Blasio traveled to Iowa on Tuesday as part of an ongoing push by the Democrat to elevate his national profile.
De Blasio, who was re-elected last month to a second and final term, landed in the launch pad for presidential hopefuls to headline a fundraiser for a liberal leaning political group.
Iowa, whose caucuses officially kick off the presidential race every four years, is widely viewed as as a testing ground for candidates weighing a run for the White House, but de Blasio dismissed speculation that the trip signaled a possible run in 2020.
“My larger sense of mission is to foster progressive change,” de Blasio told reporters at a news conference in Des Moines when asked if he had any aspirations to run for president.
The mayor said the trip is just one of several he will take in the coming months to rally behind progressive Democrats running in next year’s midterm congressional elections.
“We have got to embrace a progressive, populist economic message,” de Blasio said of the Democratic party’s efforts to flip the GOP-controled U.S. House of Representatives and Senate. “We’ve got to embrace grassroots organizing.”
De Blasio used the evening fundraiser for Progress Iowa to tout his administration’s first-term victories such as providing free pre-kindergarten classes for all of the city’s four-year-olds, and he urged Democrats to “leave no stone unturned, leave no seat unchallenged.”
“We are not the party of elites. We are not the party of big donors, we are the party of working people,” de Blasio told the largely receptive audience.
Earlier in the day, de Blasio was greeted in Des Moines by protests from his fiercest critics — the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association, the union representing the NYPD’s rank-and-file officers. It dispatched several members to picket outside of the fundraising venue, while the Transport Workers Union, which represents the city’s transit employees, took out a full page ad in The Des Moines Register, labeling the mayor a “phony” progressive Democrat.
The PBA has been at odds with de Blasio over contract renewal negotiations and the TWU has taken aim at the mayor over a host of issues including a city law that allows bus drivers to be criminally charged if they hit a pedestrian in a crosswalk.
Asked about the protests, de Blasio said “this is nothing new ... both of these unions have done this kind of thing before.”