A Bill de Blasio for Staten Island campaign went from improbable to possible this week by the merging of his liberal Park Slope neighborhood with the Republican-leaning borough in a single Congressional district. De Blasio is loathed on Staten Island, and his interest in running there has become a punchline for his would-be competitors, but that reportedly hasn’t stopped him from making calls to donors, union leaders and other public figures and allies in recent days. Sources have told multiple media outlets that he is seriously considering his prospects.
While de Blasio’s candidacy is far from certain, political watchers are already salivating over the idea of a progressive with national name recognition entering the race.
“I think that this would make it the most-watched and most covered and most interesting Democratic primary in the nation,” John DeSio, a Democratic communications consultant and Staten Island native, told City & State. “Everything that happens in that primary would be major news.”
Already, de Blasio’s would-be challenger in the June 2022 Democratic primary, Max Rose, highlighted the potential matchup in an email to supporters this week, according to The Daily News.
“Bill de Blasio has never been my biggest fan, but now he might be my primary opponent. I know I laughed at first too, but the implications aren’t funny,” Rose wrote. Current Rep. Nicole Malliotakis unseated Rose in the 11th Congressional District in 2020.
Malliotakis also capitalized on Staten Islanders’ disdain for the former mayor.
“Malliotakis-de Blasio rematch??” she tweeted, referencing their face-off in the 2017 mayoral race. “Democrat leadership, in their desperate attempt to cancel me and silence our voice in Congress, are redrawing our district to connect #StatenIsland to Park Slope, creating an opportunity for the disastrous mayor to run against me this November!”
After a failed presidential run and almost-bid for governor, de Blasio will be hard-fought to convince voters he’s more than a perpetual candidate looking for “any port in a storm,” long-time Democratic political consultant George Arzt told City & State.
“He’s running for the presidency, he’s running for governor, he’s running for Congress, how does it look?” said Arzt, adding that de Blasio’s candidacy would be “terribly divisive” for the Democratic Party and force it to spend big on the primary.
“They will have their resources and revenues drained, and it will help Malliotakis a great deal,” he said. “Also, I don't see where his votes are coming from because I don't think that even with the redrawn lines that he could find a favorable population that will help overtake Staten Island.”
Staten Islanders, and its elected officials including Council Member Joe Borelli, have expressed outright disgust for many of de Blasio’s policies as mayor. The borough is home to large portions of the New York City Police Department, which has blamed de Blasio’s rhetoric and directives for anti-police sentiment and rising crime. His COVID-19 shutdowns and vaccine mandates sparked outrage on the Island. Residents have also said he’s neglected various city services there, including trash cleanup.
“You go to the supermarket, the deli, Dunkin’ Donuts … and you can always hear people complaining about Mayor de Blasio,” DeSio said. “He’s gonna really have to be defending his record as mayor.”
Rose, an Army veteran, is more palatable than de Blasio on Staten Island, having represented the borough from 2019 through 2020. But the GOP has gained momentum nationally since then, seizing on the Democrats’ messaging problem in hopes of taking back the House and the Senate in this year’s midterms. Staten Island is still strongly aligned with Trump, who has already endorsed Malliotakis in the race.
But the addition of de Blasio’s home neighborhood of Park Slope, along with the Democratic enclaves of Gowanus and Sunset Park, could tip the scales enough for the Democrats to win. While the 11th District voted for Trump in 2020, under the new district lines, Biden would have won by about 10 percentage points, according to data compiled by the Center for Urban Research and The Graduate Center at the City University of New York, and previously reported by City & State. When Malliotakis challenged de Blasio in the 2017 mayoral race, she received about 28% of votes, while de Blasio netted 66%.
“I just think it’s going to be difficult for her or any Republican to hold on to the seat under the new lines” but “it’s not impossible,” DeSio said.