This story was updated on May 20.
Former New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has re-emerged as a candidate – again – but this time, politicos making very early observations think he actually might have a chance at pulling off a successful campaign. De Blasio on Friday officially announced plans to run in the 10th Congressional District.
“The polls show people are hurting. They need help. They need help fast, and they need leaders who can actually get them help now and know how to do it. I do know how to do it from years of serving the people of this city, and so today I’m declaring my candidacy for Congress in the 10th Congressional District of New York,” he said while making the announcement on NBC’s “Morning Joe.”
De Blasio on Wednesday launched an exploratory committee to weigh his prospects in the race, and within hours lapped up a major endorsement.
“Bill de Blasio is the most qualified progressive candidate who I believe can win this diverse seat,” Assembly Member Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn, chair of the Kings County Democratic Executive Committee, said in a statement on Wednesday.
There are a number of what-ifs at play. The newly redrawn congressional map is slated to be finalized Friday, and already, the District 10 field is becoming crowded with prospects to fill the open seat. Former lawyer to House Democrats, Daniel Goldman, is among the latest to weigh a run, sources told City & State on Wednesday. Former New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, former Council Member David Yassky, Council Member Carlina Rivera, state Sens. Brad Hoylman and Simcha Felder, and Assembly Members Yuh-Line Niou, Robert Carroll and Jo Anne Simon have all expressed interest. Moderate entrepreneur Brian Robinson has also said he plans to run.
De Blasio’s Congressional bid is the seventh political office he’s considered running, or actually run for in the past decade. In February, weeks after he finally put speculation to rest that he might run for governor, he reportedly considered challenging Max Rose in a Democratic primary for the 11th Congressional District. He ran for president in 2020, and before he was elected mayor, served as New York City Public Advocate and on the City Council.
His gubernatorial hopes and presidential campaign were widely mocked, but opinions appear to have swung in his favor, for now.
“Yes he can win. It’s a smart move for him professionally,” veteran political consultant Hank Sheinkopf, a frequent de Blasio critic, said Wednesday. “As the district is cut, in lower Manhattan, we have enough woke people who would vote for him, and he has brownstone Brooklyn, which has always been his base. Frankly, it depends on who else runs.”
“Stranger things have happened this year, and he might have a shot,” Olivia Lapeyrolerie, former first deputy press secretary to de Blasio and vice president at the political consulting firm SKDK, told City & State in a text message on Wednesday. “It may be the perfect storm for him . . . honestly this whole process has been so fucked up it’s anyone’s game, and he has the name recognition.”
Two of de Blasio’s former press secretaries had little to say about the Wednesday announcement. “I’ll stay out of this one,” Eric Phillips said in a text message to City & State. And Bill Neidhardt, who recently founded the progressive consulting firm Left Flank Strategies, said “I don’t have anything to say here, not familiar with the plans.”
De Blasio’s record on crime, however, could weaken his chances among voters in the new district, which in addition to parts of lower Manhattan and his home neighborhood of Park Slope, as of now includes portions of Borough Park, DUMBO, Brooklyn Heights, Windsor Terrace and Prospect Heights.
“Our polling indicates that voters feel the City is not in a good place today – crime is out of control, affordable housing is in short supply, there is a rise in anti Semitism, and the NY comeback is happening too slowly. Many primary voters pin the blame squarely on de Blasio’s shoulders,” Bradley Honan, CEO and president of the polling firm Honan Strategy Group, told City & State. “Name recognition only gets you so far in the current environment.”
That’s especially true in the Othodox Jewish community of Borough Park, where de Blasio is “one of the most hated politicians” among average voters, according to one local political insider who asked for anonymity to speak candidly. They said that while de Blasio has a strong relationship with leadership, many voters in the community blame him for an increase in crime, in addition to economic hardships brought on by the COVID-19 lockdowns he implemented. “Community leaders, even if they have gratitude for de Blasio will not be able to endorse him knowing the backlash they will get from voters in the community,” the insider said, noting that of the potential candidates publicly named thus far, the community would most likely support Yassky, depending on his ability to compete in the final field.
Mercury political consultant Jake Dilemani, also expressed some optimism about de Blasio’s potential candidacy, but said his record on crime could hamstring him.
“The district as drawn likely favors a progressive Democrat. Bill de Blasio, historically his politics would have aligned well with his district. It’s where his political base was as council member,” Dilemani said, while also highlighting de Blasio’s abysmal polling record during the tail end of his tenure. “Crime is consistently the number one concern amongst democratic primary voters right now, and a lot of those voters lay the blame at the feet of the former mayor.”
With reporting by Jeff Coltin