Want to run for president? Quit your day job

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks during an event in Des Moines, Iowa.
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks during an event in Des Moines, Iowa.
Charlie Neibergall/AP/Shutterstock
New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks during an event in Des Moines, Iowa.

Want to run for president? Quit your day job

New York deserves senators, governors and mayors who are focused on their current position.
March 25, 2019

Imagine you have a job that makes you responsible for the safety of more than 8 million people. Many believe it’s one of the hardest jobs around, that it really requires 24/7 concentration.

Then imagine one day you say to yourself: I’m really bored. I need a bigger challenge and more responsibility.

So you decide to fly all over America auditioning for that next job. You spend your time pontificating on panels in Washington, D.C. or speaking to small political groups in the hinterlands of Iowa and New Hampshire.

Stop imagining. Every four years some elected leaders in this country decide that their job is so easy that it can be done part-time, even from far away.

In 2015-2016, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie decided that New Jersey, which was engulfed in a “Bridgegate” scandal and waslimping along economically, could be put on autopilot. He spent many months auditioning for his next job – which deservedly did not materialize – while his favorabilityplummeted among the people who knew him best: his millions of constituents.

Now, we are in the quadrennial part of the cycle where sitting governors and senators and even mayors decide that they can cut back their hours at the office. Almost all of them, when they ran for office, denied they wanted any other job. “I’m only focused on doing my job,” they will invariably say, as they pledge to serve out their full term. Last year, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Gov. Andrew Cuomo both did just that. Now, Gillibrand is running for president and Cuomo is reportedly considering doing the same.

Congress and state governmentsshould enact a new law: If you want to run for president, or any other office, you have to vacate your current position so a successor can be appointed or voted in who is willing to put in 50-70 hour weeks. Someone who isn’t looking for their next promotion at the expense of the people who got them their job in the first place.

Those of us who live in the five boroughs are now experiencing this exact malady: Our mayor, whose work ethic has been questioned even before his presidential wanderlust set in, is now spending every weekend on the road visiting other states. It’s not that Bill and Chirlane have the travel bug that infects many empty nesters – they’ve spent the past few weekends in places like Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, key states with early contests in the long-distance dash to the Democratic nomination.

They have not been welcomed by Bernie-like passionate crowds, or adoring fans like former Rep. Beto O’Rourke is experiencing – no, the mayor has struggled to draw double-digit audiences as he tells the tale of his progressive successes in New York.

Running the largest city in America is tough, and our current mayor can point to a few early successes like creating universal pre-K and the reduced use of stop and frisk. But looking around the city shows much work that needs to be done. From the slow-motion disaster in New York City’s public housing – which often fails to provide heat to tenants in the winter, while exposing a shocking number of them to lead poisoning – to the large population of homeless people suffering on the streets and subways, New York needs an overtime mayor, someone who spends every waking hour trying to fix what ails his constituents.

One of the reasons former Gov. Mario Cuomo didn’t throw his hat into the presidential ring in 1988, when he could have been a very strong contender, was because he knew that the work he signed up for in Albany was monumental and required his constant attention.

I don’t want to purely pick on the Missing Mayor; I also question whether the voters in California or Massachusetts or Vermont are getting their money’s worth from Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders. Who’s minding the store in Washington state with Gov. Jay Inslee crisscrossing the country with his much-needed climate change crusade? How is the great metropolis of South Bend managing to function without Mayor Pete?

Unemployed candidates or likely candidates, including O’Rourke, former Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and former Vice-President Joe Biden, have their calendars clear for the next 18 months. They can campaign full-time without missing floor votes or unexpected public safety emergencies back home.

There’s a simple solution, which would protect the interests of every potential candidate’s constituents: The day you decide to run for another office, you have to step down from your current one. It would certainly shake out the real contenders from the poseurs and it will mean that no constituents are shortchanged by the people they voted into office.

Tom Allon
is the president and publisher of City & State.
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