What the frontrunner’s campaign strategy tells us about how he’d run the city
Conventional wisdom is rarely correct in political campaigns, and early front-runners don’t often make it first to the finish line. Just ask Hillary Clinton. Or Mark Green. Or Christine Quinn.
The old fable of the tortoise and the hare comes to mind when reflecting on the recent Democratic mayoral campaign; slow and steady won the race. I must tip my hat to Bill de Blasio and his entire campaign team. From Bill Hyers and Emma Wolfe to Jonathan Rosen and Valerie Berlin and his exceptionally talented TV commercial producer John Del Cecato, they executed a perfect, consistent and extremely impressive run.
Bill de Blasio ran the most authentic campaign and his message was clear from start to finish. He didn’t waver when he was way back in the polls – as recently as six weeks before the primary – and he confidently continued to lay out a different vision for the future than his opponents.
De Blasio is a very appealing and likable man, as is his family. I got to know him and meet his wife during the campaign and even though he and I occasionally disagreed on some policy issues, he was always respectful and we even developed a light-hearted banter about our different views. I came to respect and admire him more and more as the campaign continued and I think, if he wins in November, he has the potential to be a very strong mayor.
De Blasio’s rise is also a product of an interesting geographic shift in our city – he is from Brooklyn, which has steadily climbed out of Manhattan’s shadow in the past decade and is now the place talented young people yearn to live and work. As the first mayor from ouside Manhattan in awhile, it’ll be interesting to see how de Blasio is able to equalize opportunity for all New Yorkers.
Joe Lhota, the Republican nominee, is also a Brooklyn resident and he has an impressive background that would make him a potentially strong mayor. However, the party registration disparity (6-1 Democrats to Republicans) and the shifting demogrpahics of the city, make his candidacy a real uphill climb.
De Blasio is too smart and humble to make some of the same mistakes Democratic nominee Mark Green made in 2001 contributed to his loss of the election. As many are saying, it will take an extraordinary event for Lhota to catch de Blasio (who is ahead by 43 points in the first poll). But remember that in politics, anything can happen, as we witnessed in 2001 with the late surge of the previously unknown Mike Bloomberg.
De Blasio’s strong campaign team and coherent message bodes well for an effective administration. One of the most important aspects of the mayor’s job is to pick great deputy mayors and commissioners; if the campaign team is proof of de Blasio’s ability to spot talent, then we can be confident he’ll bring the best and the brightest to City Hall. In fact, if he wins, I wouldn’t be surprised if de Blasio brings in talent from around the country to energize city government with new ideas and best practices from other big cities.
One thing that would also be interesting to see is if de Blasio would potentially take a page from President Obama’s (and Lincoln’s) playbook and form a “team of rivals.” Would Christine Quinn make a good deputy mayor like Hillary Clinton made a great Secretary of State? If Obama and Clinton could patch up their rivalry, there’s no reason de Blasio and Quinn couldn’t bury the hatchet for the good of the city.
Who would be de Blasio’s Police Commissioner, arguably the second most important job in the city? I like former Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, who seems willing to come back to his old job. His track record in New York and Los Angeles would lead me to believe he would be the right commissioner to mend “stop and frisk,” but still maintain the city’s record-breaking run of crime reduction.
For Schools Chancellor, de Blasio is likely to pick someone who will anger the charter school and education reform community. Although it’s hard to imagine de Blasio continuing the Bloomberg administration’s hard-charging school reform agenda, it’ll be tricky to switch gears quickly, particularly with the new “Common Core” curriculum bedeviling educators around the city. This key choice of Chancellor will be very telling about de Blasio’s plans for his first term.
This is all theoretical now; there are still six weeks left until a general election and anything can happen. But based on the overwhelming poll lead, it might make sense to start getting used to spelling de Blasio’s unconventional last name.
Or just start preparing to call him Hizzoner, a favorite appelation of the late Edward I. Koch.
Tom Allon, the president of City & State media, is a former Liberal Party-backed candidate for Mayor. Questions or comments? firstname.lastname@example.org
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