The Clinton Factor

Photo: Timothy Bell

Mandy Grunwald is one of the few Democrats who had cause to celebrate on Election Day, after helping to elect Ken Salazar as senator in Colorado and John Lynch as governor in New Hampshire. Now the D.C.-based consultant and longtime Clintonite is heading to New York, her hometown, to be chief media consultant to City Council speaker Gifford Miller—the just-turned-35-year-old who’s running for mayor. Greg Sargent spoke with her about his chances.

Will age be a big issue in this race?
I assume Gifford will get attacked for being too young. If we run an effective campaign, people will see his youth and energy as an asset, and the mayor will start looking a little old.

Don’t voters have to feel that something is seriously wrong—like soaring crime under Dinkins—before they toss an incumbent?
I’m not sure there’s anything of crisis proportions. But people are unhappy with the direction of the city, which faces a multitude of problems like terrorism and the schools. It’s not a moment for a caretaker mayor like Bloomberg.

Where has Mike Bloomberg failed?
Bloomberg doesn’t know how to stand up for New York. In a world where it’s easy to get pushed around and the dollars are few, he gets pushed around way too often. Gifford’s impatient with that.

Do you hope to damage Bloomberg by tying him to Bush?
Bloomberg’s support for the president, and his refusal to stand up to Bush when he screws the city, will be a major issue in this campaign.

New York voters are a tribal bunch. Can Miller survive a primary with a mostly minority electorate when Freddy Ferrer is likely to run?
It’s not about tribes or racial-ethnic makeup. It’s, Are you as strong as the city? Are you a strong character? Gifford has a strong and feisty personality.

Some say he was slow to investigate City Council member Allan Jennings for sexual harassment.
I feel very comfortable with Gifford’s position on sexual harassment. I wouldn’t be doing the campaign if I didn’t.

What will you be able to do in New York that you can’t do in D.C.?
It’s such a long list. Bergdorf’s is usually at the top of it.

The Clinton Factor