President de Blasio? 

Mayor Bill de Blasio ponders a White House bid by testing the waters (ice) in New Hampshire.
Mayor Bill de Blasio ponders a White House bid by testing the waters (ice) in New Hampshire. Photo Credit: Jeff Bachner

Why is Mayor Bill de Blasio thinking about running for president? He hinted at a real answer on Tuesday at the end of a snowstorm news conference, when asked about the forthcoming special election for New York City public advocate.

“I want to urge all New Yorkers to recognize it’s an important position,” he said, cracking a smile. “You never know what might happen to someone who’s public advocate."

Yes, de Blasio, who held that role, showed that the lightly funded public advocate’s office could be a launching pad to the mayoralty. He made the leap in 2013 as an underdog in a large field. But supporters say he has always been underestimated, and maybe that’s his thinking as he considers a presidential bid  setting up a visit to early-primary state New Hampshire and lining up staff with national experience, according to recent reports. He’s not ruling out a White House run, he said again Tuesday.

You never know what might happen to someone who is the mayor of New York City. 

Squint a little at that storm briefing and you might see it like de Blasio seems to. There he stood in his official city windbreaker and red tie, trim as usual in blue slacks while he TOOK CHARGE as mayors do. His police and FDNY officials flanked him. He had 1,600 plows at the ready. Sure, the city was looking at only a couple inches of accumulation, but de Blasio’s New York was PREPARED. (This time, anyway. Don’t ask about the last big storm.) 

Some cities are thriving in ways they weren’t when Mayor John Lindsay gave the presidency a shot in the 1970s, and urban areas are centers for the Democratic base. A real estate guy with no political experience is president, meaning the rule book is out of date. Mayors (including one Mike Bloomberg) are throwing their hats in the ring this cycle. And many of the progressive issues animating the Sen. Bernie Sanders left are ones that de Blasio has tried to address in New York.

Joseph Viteritti, a Hunter College professor who has written books about both de Blasio and Lindsay, told amNewYork that there are numerous difficulties running from city halls to 1600 Pennsylvania, but “I think the New York mayor should have a voice in this conversation, because New York has such a stake in the outcome.”

It could be that de Blasio just wants to raise his progressive message, advocate for New Yorkers, and highlight the admirable parts of his record like universal pre-K and guaranteed paid time off. Certainly he’ll be raising those issues during his swing through New Hampshire later this week. But you’d think it’s utopia in the five boroughs by the tone at the snow/presidency news conference. When pressed about why voters might want yet another progressive presidential hopeful, de Blasio huffily noted that he had been talking about income inequality since he was public advocate. He also cited the exact day that he made a speech about the matter to a breakfast with the city’s business elite: Oct. 4, 2012, like it was the date which will live in infamy.

Never change, de Blasio. Sure, only around 5 percent of New York voters picked him in a recent poll asking which New York leaders should seek the presidency. True, the city’s public housing system is in a state of crisis and the supposedly fairest big city of them all still struggles with an unprecedented level of homelessness. Almost five years after Eric Garner died on Staten Island, police officers are only now facing departmental charges, and many of the changes de Blasio has instituted to the force are still in progress. 

De Blasio himself withstood the gaze of federal and state prosecutors looking into his early fundraising practices, resulting in no charges but criticism from those prosecutors in 2017.

Like many mayors, forced to get their hands deep in gritty policy battles and every snowstorm and crime stat, de Blasio has made his share of people angry on the left and the right. Developers think he’s a socialist. Socialists think he’s a developer. Hillary Clinton thinks he should have endorsed her earlier in 2015. Sanders supporters don’t understand why the economic inequality guy didn’t endorse Sanders. Brooklynites ask why his car and police escort are always parked outside the Prospect Park YMCA for leisurely workouts. Cranks citywide wonder whether the heat’s going to be out in NYCHA while he makes the New Hampshire rounds.

“There’s always room for more progressive voices,” de Blasio said Tuesday. Hey, you never know.

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