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The Influentials: Politics

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Michael Bloomberg and Patricia Harris, mayor and first deputy.  

Michael Bloomberg
Mayor
He’s remade the job in his own post-partisan, technocratic image. The public-school system will never be the same (thank God). Thousands won’t die of lung cancer. His belief in the city as a luxury good is helping drive, for good and ill, the physical transformation of the city. Bloomberg’s desire to reduce the municipal budget’s reliance on Wall Street could lead to a historic economic realignment, with tourism and biotech playing bigger roles in the city budget of the future.

Patricia Harris
First deputy mayor
Kevin Sheekey, Michael Bloomberg’s political strategist may have helped the mayor gain power, but it is Harris who tells him how to use it. Harris, who was in charge of Bloomberg’s voluminous charitable giving, both corporate and personal, when he was in the private sector, is equal parts the mayor’s political conscience, alter ego, enforcer, and all-purpose brain check. Harris, whose nickname around City Hall is “the Velvet Hammer,” is the administration’s liaison to the city’s civic and cultural elite. And when Bloomberg is in Bermuda or otherwise out of pocket, she’s the mayor.

Eliot Spitzer
Attorney general, New York State
Using the unlikeliest of bully pulpits, Spitzer brought reformist zeal back into politics. He transformed the attorney general’s office from a bureaucratic backwater into a kind of governor-in-waiting post, a nationally watched shadow Securities and Exchange Commission that defends investors across the country from Wall Street greed, using litigation—or, more often, the threat of it—to radically transform relations between government and the worlds of finance, insurance, and health care, among others. His hard-charging style set the tone for a new breed of law-enforcement Democrats emerging across the country. Showing he can use the carrot as well, he’s spent the past half-dozen years rebuilding the state Democratic Party, all but ensuring him a landslide victory and a significant mandate to reform Albany when—okay, if—he’s elected governor in November. The Thomas Dewey of the 21st century.

Isac Weinberger
Political gossip
No one does more to shape the rumor of the day—and, hence, drive the city’s political conversation—than does Weinberger, a gruff, rotund Hasidic Jew who works for the city. Weinberger spends his days on the phone shaking down people for tips—who’s thinking of dropping out of what race, what a candidate’s internal polls are showing—and promptly passing them on to the next caller (without the benefit, it should be said, of any fact-checking, only increasing his power).

Christine Quinn
Speaker, City Council
Quinn is undoubtedly the most powerful lesbian elected official in America—a fact that undersells her influence. She controls the city’s budget, which means every cultural institution and community group, from the Metropolitan Museum of Art to the smallest Staten Island senior center, relies on her for its financial lifeblood. The biggest developers in town need her favor to get their schemes past City Council zoning bureaucrats. And her popularity among council members might mean that she will be able to muster more than token opposition to the mayor if she chooses.

Chuck Schumer
U.S. senator, New York State
Senator Noodge. Schumer’s relentless poking and prodding—along with his pragmatic plotting—have taken the Democrats to the brink of taking back the Senate. As head of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Schumer has on speed-dial every one of New York’s wealthiest Democratic donors. What’s more, Schumer has veto power over key political and staffing decisions made by every Senate candidate in the country, each of whom craves his attention, strategic advice, and campaign cash.

Bill Clinton
Foundation president
No one comes close as a Democratic fund-raising attraction. He’s shining attention on the African aids catastrophe and wrangling desperately needed money to fight the disease. A generation of younger politicians tries to imitate his gift for empathy, and his political consultants peddle their wares around the world on the basis of their success with Bill. He’s taught a 40-year seminar in triangulation to his wife
and political partner . . .

Hillary Clinton
U.S. senator, New York State
Does the sun have much influence on the planets? Nothing happens in the 2008 Democratic presidential race that isn’t related to Hillary. The White House is almost equally fixated with New York’s junior senator, and she remains the GOP’s best fund-raising foil. The press doesn’t much care, but Hillary is a major force in her day job as well, from keeping military bases open upstate to doggedly chasing federal money for the victims of 9/11’s toxic air.

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