Bill de Blasio is fond of a certain phrase from John Lindsay, the mayor of New York from 1966 to 1973: The city’s top executive position is the “second-toughest job in America.” After swapping parties, Lindsay expressed interest in the Democratic ticket for president before being edged out early in the primary. Like de Blasio, Lindsay didn’t have full support for his candidacy on the home front: Shortly before he bailed on the race in 1971, Brooklyn Democratic Party chairman and local playmaker Meade Esposito said, “I think the handwriting is on the wall. [Lindsay] better come home.”
De Blasio hasn’t officially declared his candidacy for president, though it sure looks like he’s going to, traveling to early primary states, holding $5,000-a-plate fundraisers, and opening his own PAC to fund national candidates and pay for his own stateside travel. He’s also pretty close to qualifying for the primary debates this summer, needing a one percent showing in just one more reputable poll to make the cut. Though the mayor appears ready to take on the toughest job in America, his allies in New York — not to mention his constituency — aren’t quite as thrilled. Below, a brief guide to everyone who’s told the mayor no.
Much of His Former Staff
Following a Daily News report that de Blasio is expected to announce his candidacy the second week of May, the Atlantic responded with some comments that could potentially embarrass the mayor:
De Blasio’s communications director, Mike Casca, who two months ago joined the payroll of his PAC, quit on Friday afternoon, shortly after attempting to bat down the latest round of stories that the mayor was soon joining the crowded Democratic-primary field. His government press secretary walked last month, in part to avoid being pulled into forthcoming 2020 efforts. His 2013 campaign manager, Bill Hyers, didn’t respond when I asked him what he made of the mayor’s White House ambitions, though he’s been talking with Pete Buttigieg about getting involved with his campaign. John Del Cecato, the consultant who made de Blasio’s ads in the past, including the breakthrough, blockbuster spot featuring de Blasio’s biracial son, Dante, which turned around his 2013 mayoral race, won’t be involved either, though he declined to comment other than to confirm that he wasn’t going to participate. Lis Smith, a member of de Blasio’s 2013 team who was later denied an administration post after her own tabloid run-ins, is Buttigieg’s communications adviser.
“Everyone has an honest assessment of his flaws, except, maybe, for him,” said one current New York City Council member who wanted to remain nameless to avoid upsetting work with the administration.
Park Slope Voters
De Blasio gets a lot of flack for his frequent commutes all the way from Gracie Mansion to the Park Slope YMCA — the Times once called the gym his Camp David. But according to a WNYC report, some Park Slope voters have more serious concerns about his record on education: “Black children and people of color are still not getting a proper education,” Onilaja Waters said. “I would tell the people of the United States that this is someone who talks a progressive agenda, but what we see in New York City is very mixed.”
Three Out of Four New Yorkers
In a Quinnipiac poll from April 3, 76 percent of New York voters said “de Blasio should not run for president.” It’s not that they necessarily wanted him borough-bound either: In the same poll, the mayor suffered a negative 42–44 percent job approval-disapproval rating. “I’m glad I could unify the people of New York City,” de Blasio said at a news conference, responding to the poll.
All the Candidates for Public Advocate
In February, all seven candidates for the stepping-stone ombudsman position came out against a de Blasio candidacy. “The mayor may qualify to run for president,” said former Council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who ultimately lost the race to Jumaane Williams. “I’m not sure he’s qualified to run for president.” Queens assemblyman Ron Kim called a de Blasio bid “delusional.”
Former Campaign Adviser Rebecca Katz
“I believe Bill de Blasio has 100 percent the right message; I’m just not so sure he’s the right messenger,” Katz told Gotham Gazette.
“He is stubborn about doing things that he feels entitled to do, but don’t do him any favors politically and don’t make a lot of sense,” a former City Hall aide told Politico. Many former staffers reportedly agree that he is “arrogant.”
Democratic Political Consultants
Phil Singer, a Democratic political consultant who worked on the Kerry and Clinton campaigns in 2004 and 2008, told Politico that de Blasio’s “personality is not endearing. There’s a little bit of self-righteousness about him that thus far hasn’t translated into a groundswell of support for a federal candidacy.”
Anonymous — But Candid — Friends and Advisers
The idea of a de Blasio candidcay is “fucking insane,” one former aide told Politico, laughing out loud. Another self-described friend of the mayor said the idea of a de Blasio presidential bid is “idiotic.”
The mayor has said that the only adviser he needs on his team is his wife. But First Lady of New York City Chirlane McCray isn’t totally onboard. In a February interview with Politico’s Women Rule podcast, McCray said that she believes her husband would “be a great president.” However, “the timing is not exactly right.”
This post was first published on April 9, 2019. It has been updated throughout.