Campaigns & Elections

Shaun Donovan to mount long-rumored mayoral run, sources say

The veteran of the Obama and Bloomberg administrations is now expected to enter the race.

Shaun Donovan, former HUD Secretary and former Commissioner of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development.

Shaun Donovan, former HUD Secretary and former Commissioner of the New York City Department of Housing Preservation and Development. Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP/Shutterstock

Shaun Donovan, who served in President Barack Obama’s White House and under New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg in City Hall, is planning to run for mayor of New York City in 2021, sources told City & State.

Donovan, 54, worked in housing in President Bill Clinton’s administration before serving as Bloomberg’s commissioner of housing preservation and development. He took a leave of absence to join the Obama campaign, and was named secretary of housing and urban development after Obama’s win. In 2014, he took over as Obama’s director of the Office of Management and Budget. After leaving the White House, Donovan worked as a senior strategist to the president of Harvard University, where Donovan earned his bachelors degree and two masters degrees in public administration and architecture. 

This isn’t the first time Donovan has considered a run for mayor. He was rumored to be considering a primary challenge to de Blasio in 2017, but never ended up running. Donovan has been whispered about as a possible 2021 candidate going back at least to 2018. He has stayed out of the spotlight in New York, and has rarely spoken to the press. But he published an op-ed in The New York Times last week accusing the Trump administration of dismantling the Fair Housing Act. 

The field for the mayoral race is unlikely to be set until after the 2020 presidential race, but any candidate – especially one who has never held elected office like Donovan – would need to lay the groundwork for a campaign long before then to seriously compete in the June 2021 Democratic primary. Donovan could just be one of many candidates who are taking a new look at the election following Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.’s exit from the race this week

The leading candidates currently in the race include New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. Donovan, a white male, wouldn’t bring any diversity to a field in which many observers are still waiting to see if a major female candidate will emerge.

Donovan was born in New York City, and, according to the Real Deal, bought a house last year in Boerum Hill, where he lives with his wife, an architect. Donovan was not immediately reachable for comment. Neither was Bill Hyers, a political consultant who worked on New York City Bill de Blasio’s 2013 mayoral campaign and is rumored to be running Donovan’s bid. 

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