MANHATTAN (CN) – One poll showed him as the only Democrat with a net negative approval rating. Another placed him last among New York politicians whom respondents wanted to run for president, and his hometown newspaper ran an editorial describing his likely presidential bid as an ethical quagmire.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio was not deterred, announcing his candidacy this morning in a video released by his campaign.
“There’s plenty of money in this world. There’s plenty of money in this country. It’s just in the wrong hands,” de Blasio says at the video’s start.
He concludes: “I’m running for president because it’s time we put working people first.”
Showing that his political ambitions extended far beyond re-election, the two-term mayor made himself 23rd presidential contender on Thursday, in a race that only made room for 20 candidates in the political debates.
De Blasio’s entrance, while a head scratcher for many, was not a surprise. The mayor has been collecting donations from presidential political action committee, the federal Fairness PAC, since last year, and The New York Times showed that a Boston-based construction executive hosted a fundraiser for the mayor last month.
That executive, Suffolk Construction CEO John Fish, may be eyeing an expansion of his business to New York, troubling the paper’s editorial board.
The Times noted that the report was not the first time donations to de Blasio had raised eyebrows. New York federal prosecutors once cited a Supreme Court decision weakening anti-bribery laws in explaining why they did not charge him after a donor to his first mayoral campaign pleaded guilty to corruption. Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance commented at the time that de Blasio violated the “intent and spirit,” if not the letter, of campaign-finance laws.
After a recent shake-up in his staff, de Blasio will be plowing ahead without one former communications director experienced in upending expectations in a presidential campaign. Mike Casca, a veteran of the Bernie Sanders campaign in 2016, left his job early this month.
Straining his relationship with the Democratic establishment, de Blasio withheld his endorsement in the party’s 2016 primary race.
De Blasio’s entrance sharpens contrasts with the other mayor in the race, Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana. In a local outlet City & State New York, ex-Barack Obama staffer Kate Albright-Hanna noted that while Buttigieg chose to repair or demolish 1,000 vacant houses in 1,000 days, an initiative that inadvertently roped in poor residents of color living in homes marked unoccupied, de Blasio implemented plans for affordable housing, education and child care, through programs such as universal pre-K.
The slogan that first propelled de Blasio into Gracie Mansion hammered themes of wealth inequality: “A Tale of Two Cities.”
De Blasio revisited this messaging in his campaign announcement, saying: “It doesn’t matter if you live in a city or a rural area.”
“It doesn’t matter if you live in a big state or a small state,” he continues, as the footage shifts from the New York City skyline to images of factories and farms. “It doesn’t matter if you live in a big state or a small state. People in every part of this country feel stuck or even like they’re going backwards, but the rich got richer.”
New York City’s Independent Budget Office found in 2017 that this trend endures in the Big Apple, despite the mayor’s rhetoric.
President Trump snidely greeted the news of de Blasio’s entrance on Twitter.
“The Dems are getting another beauty to join their group,” Trump wrote. “Bill de Blasio of NYC, considered the worst mayor in the U.S., will supposedly be making an announcement for president today. He is a JOKE, but if you like high taxes & crime, he’s your man. NYC HATES HIM!”
As typical of the president’s jibes, the tweet was long on insults and short on facts. New York City is not in the midst of a crime wave and boasts, with some justification, the mantle of the safest big city in the nation. The superlative is up for debate depending on how one defines “big city,” but the data is clear on the Big Apple’s long-declining crime trends.
In 2017, homicides fell to their lowest number recorded in more than half a century, plunging to about 290. That was the lowest number since 243 homicides in 1951 and a dramatic plunge from its record high: 2,245 in 1990.
During an appearance this morning on “Good Morning America,” the mayor gave as good as he got. Borrowing the president’s tactic of bestowing disparaging nicknames on his opponents, de Blasio referred to Trump as “Con Don.”
“He’s a con artist,” de Blasio said. “I know his tricks. I know his playbook,” the mayor said.
De Blasio’s entrance into the race falls a day before his Green New Deal comes into effect, and de Blasio used that environmental initiative as a wedge against Trump, who denies the overwhelming scientific consensus on climate change.
Leading the city that houses the headquarters of the United Nations, New York’s municipal Green New Deal models its goals after Paris Agreement’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
“When we saw the federal government walk away from the Paris Agreement, we doubled down,” de Blasio said in his video.
Under the terms of the treaty, Trump does not have the power to withdraw until after the next election. With New York City announcing a plan to treat the treaty’s deadlines as firm, de Blasio warned that Trump’s portfolio of glass towers could lead to $2.1 million per year in fines if his buildings do not become more efficient by 2030, the U.N.’s sustainability goal.
Courthouse News analysis shows the mayor’s calculations are likely a dramatic underestimate. The data added up by the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability did not include Trump’s most carbon-heavy building: 1290 Avenue of the Americans.
Dubbed by Forbes a “Secret Windfall” and “Crown Jewel” of Trump’s New York portfolio, the building does not bear the president’s name, but he has a 30 percent stake that makes him its largest beneficiary. The data for the building self-reported to the city shows that it produced more than 18,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases in 2016, more than three times the amount spewed by Trump Tower.
Pressed on the discrepancy, the Mayor’s Office of Sustainability acknowledged that its prior estimate of Trump’s liabilities under the soon-to-be-enacted legislation was “not an exhaustive list of Trump’s properties.”
“We were sending a message that no one is exempt from our building mandates legislation – not even the president,” the office said, insisting upon anonymity.
Despite its prior estimate that Trump’s properties pump roughly 27,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere each year, Courthouse News found that a broader search of New York real estate associated with the president emitted more than 49,000 metric tons, nearly double the city’s estimate. That analysis excluded buildings like Trump SoHo and Riverside Drive that experienced ownership shake-ups since 2016.
De Blasio touted other aspects of his Green New Deal in his video today, including guaranteed health care.
Like its national analogue, brought into spotlight by Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a fellow New Yorker, the city’s municipal Green New Deal goes far beyond environmental initiatives. Evoking Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the legislation is a jobs, education, housing and public health program rolled into one. In January, the city announced that the program NYC Care would guarantee medical attention to all New Yorkers, including undocumented immigrants.
De Blasio’s fight against the Trump administration on immigration went to federal court last year, resulting in a sweeping injunction against efforts by the White House to slash New York City’s federal funding because of its status as a so-called sanctuary city.
“The courts have spoken: President Trump’s attempt to bully our city into enforcing his draconian immigration policies is unconstitutional,” de Blasio said in November.
On Thursday, the mayor touted that victory as an example of him standing up, and winning, to Trump the “bully.”