Choosing a candidate in a NYC democratic primary usually has more to do with a personal attraction than policies – the candidates agree on most issues. (See a comparison of the candidates here)
The candidates spend months “defining themselves,” searching for an issue to separate themselves from the pack.
The UFT invited the candidates (pre-Weiner’s entry) to panels – they all made ten minute presentations and answered questions before audiences made up of hundreds of union members. At the Brooklyn meeting Howie Schoor, the UFT Borough Representative, asked a question about continuing the ATR pool, the candidates didn’t know what ATRs were – and stumbled – Howie interrupted, “Do you want to know the ‘right answer?'”
The candidates all were attempting to satisfy UFT audiences with “right answers.”
The only candidate in a legislative office is Christine Quinn, a strength, and, as it turns out a fatal weakness. While Quinn thwarted Bloomberg efforts to layoff thousands of teachers, provided funding for the Community Schools project and worked closely with the union on many issues she could never overcome her leadership of the coup that allowed the mayor and the council to serve a third term in spite of voters, in two referenda, turning away attempts to kill term limits.
John Liu, the current comptroller, although extremely knowledgeable and hugely popular among teachers could not overcome the conviction of two key aides on charges of violating fund raising laws and lingering doubts about the involvement of his campaign.
Thompson chaired the Board of Education in the nineties, at a time when each borough president appointed a member and the mayor two members. Thompson had to carefully steer the board through the morass of geographic political interests as well as a republican mayor, he did a skillful job. His board presidency was followed by eight years as comptroller and a hugely underfunded run for the mayoralty in 2009.
I did not know much about de Blasio, an undistinguished council member representing “Brownstone Brooklyn,” who spent his term as Public Advocate chipping away at Bloomberg and setting the stage for his mayoral run.
My one interaction was negative.
Two years ago the department rolled out yet another list of closing schools. One of the schools was PS 114 in Canarsie. The department stuck with a grossly incompetent principal who overspent by several hundred thousand dollars – the department removed the principal but deducted the overspending from the school budget. A coalition of local electeds, led by Councilman Lou Fidler, devised a strategy which included Assembly member Alan Maisel, State Senator John Sampson and Councilman Charles Barron, all spoke at the public hearing, carefully avoided bashing the mayor and asked for two years to turn around the school with specific targets. (Read contemporary account here)
de Blasio, without any advance notice to the coalition members called a press conference on the steps of the school building, with TV coverage, and bashed the mayor, endangering the efforts to keep the school open.
The school was the only school removed from the list – private meetings convinced the department that they bore some responsibility.
de Blasio, who almost derailed the efforts to keep the school open, gloated claimed credit for keeping the school open.
I fully understand politics is politics – the only “rule” is to win – you do what you have to do. de Blasio grabbed a headline, and in process jeopardized the discussions that kept the school open – so be it – there are no rewards for finishing second – although he lost my vote.
Thompson worked with electeds from around the city with diverse interests while de Blasio is pretty much of a loner.
His “tax the rich” campaign and a wonderful appearance by his son and his Afro in a TV commercial have been very effective.
I wonder whether Bloomberg and his allies will pump tens of millions into the campaign attacking de Blasio as driving the city into fiscal doom and supporting policies that will increase crime?
Will twenty years of republican mayors in an overwhelming democratic city be replicated with a Lhota victory?
I feel more comfortable with Thompson, a more middle of the road candidate who can put together a broad coalition to both win in November, and, run the city in a collaborative manner. The “rich” are not the enemy and stock transfer taxes and corporate real estate taxes drive the city budget.
In the somewhat sleazy world of politics I try to make my decisions based on deeds, not promises.