Thinking of Running for Mayor in 2021? You’re Not the First
Posted April 25, 2018 12:02 a.m. EDT
NEW YORK — It has not been four months since Mayor Bill de Blasio’s inauguration, and already a group of eager politicians is maneuvering to take his place.
The Bronx borough president, Ruben Diaz Jr., was the first to declare; he filed papers last month stating that he was a candidate for mayor.
Last Tuesday, the Brooklyn borough president, Eric L. Adams, told a few dozen people assembled at a law office at MetroTech Center that he was raising money for a mayoral run.
On Monday night, the comptroller, Scott M. Stringer, held a birthday fundraiser at an Asian-themed restaurant in Chelsea — although he has yet to say openly that he is running.
And the public advocate, Letitia James, who in removing herself from consideration as a candidate for lieutenant governor last week said that “the only job I want is right here in New York City,” has sent out invitations to a “spring gala” fundraiser on May 10.
All four have been making calls to potential donors, according to a person who reported receiving entreaties from each of them.
And while the election is 3 1/2 years away, the city’s electoral calculus has changed with term limits. All three citywide officeholders, the borough presidents and the majority of City Council members are serving their final terms.
“You have pretty much the entire leadership of the government switching over,” said Suri Kasirer, a political consultant.
That also means that a host of politicians are thinking about what to run for next.
“Three years goes quickly and everybody in this group is seasoned, so they know to get their name out and be very five-borough, and raise money in different places,” said the Manhattan borough president, Gale A. Brewer, who so far is watching from the sidelines.
All four candidates are busy raising money with the hope of making a strong showing when candidates are required to make their first campaign finance report of the 2021 electoral cycle.
They are all playing catch-up to Stringer, who retained $1.4 million from his last comptroller campaign, which he is permitted to transfer to his next run for office. Diaz had $430,000 remaining in his previous campaign account and Adams had $300,000. James had only $31,000 left that she can use for her next race.
And while most or all of the candidates have told donors and supporters in private that they are running, in public they are more circumspect.
Two people who attended Adams’ event last week said that he stated unequivocally that he was running for mayor. About 40 people were present at the meeting, at a law firm in MetroTech Center, in Brooklyn, among them the former governor Eliot Spitzer. There were cold cuts and sushi on a table but few people ate.
The two people who were present, who asked not to be identified to discuss a private meeting, said that Adams displayed a bracket, like those used for college basketball tournaments, and said that instead of March Madness — the slogan used for the NCAA basketball tournament — this was going to be Mayoral Madness. The bracket included Adams, Stringer, James and Diaz, and Adams said that the contest would come down to a final showdown between him and Stringer.
Adams then said that de Blasio had spent so much time in African-American communities when he first ran for mayor in 2013 that he had essentially “out-blacked” the race’s black candidate, William Thompson.
Adams went on to say that in the 2021 race he was going to “out-white” Stringer, by winning over white constituencies. Adams and James are black. Stringer is white. Diaz is Hispanic. Adams explained that his past as a police officer gave him the experience to assure white voters that he would make public safety a priority.
In an interview last week, Adams was asked about his comments.
“I was being colorful,” he said, explaining that just as de Blasio pressed issues like stop and frisk that had an effect in black communities, he planned to take his message of public safety to white neighborhoods. “People look at a black candidate and they think he can’t go into the Baysides, Bay Ridges and Marine Parks, and I’m not going to be the candidate that can’t do that.”
Adams said that other potential candidates “continue to play coy” with the public when it comes to their aspirations. But when asked whether he was running, he would not provide a simple yes or no. “I want to be extremely clear, I am pursuing running for mayor,” he said. “It’s different from a formal announcement.”
Diaz, the only candidate who has filed papers with election authorities indicating that he is a candidate for mayor, was also reluctant to say explicitly that he was running.
“It is very early,” Diaz said. “There’s no secret that I’m looking at it. I’m exploring it. I’m considering it.” Pressed, he said, “I’m raising money for the sole purpose of running for mayor.” Diaz has sent out invitations to a New York Yankees-themed birthday fundraiser on May 3, encouraging supporters to commit to raising money for him, with those who can raise $25,000 designated as MVPs. Stringer also refused to say what office he intended to run for next.
“I’m building a political foundation for whatever comes next,” Stringer said. “I love public service. I want to continue serving this city. Part of that is building the financial infrastructure to be competitive in 2021.”
James said that in the last few days she has held “a number of meetings with individuals” to discuss her possible next run for office. “I am examining my options for the future and so we are exploring the possibility of running for mayor in 2021,” she said.
At least one potential candidate who has not filed papers is getting the attention of political insiders: Corey Johnson, the City Council speaker. Asked as he was about to be elected speaker if he saw himself taking the next step and running for mayor some day, Johnson said: “No. I never want to be mayor. No.”
It took less than three weeks for him to soften that stance, saying, “You can never say never.”