But there is a primary race for the Democrats, and those in it are very well traveled and all have weighty backgrounds. The five major candidates vying for the Democratic Party line are Councilman Eric Gioia, Councilman Bill de Blasio, attorney Imtiaz Shabbir Sayed, ballot perennial Mark Green, and Norman Siegel of the ACLU. The candidates to watch are Gioia and de Blasio.
Gioia is from the Clinton camp – the Bill Clinton camp – so he brings his “new Democrat” feel to the City Council and now to this race. Educated in two very good Catholic institutions of higher learning (St. Francis Prep and Georgetown Law School), Gioia also attended NYU, which might explain why he never washed ashore a Republican. But Gioia has spent his time in the City Council working hard to make sure that fair housing opportunities come with new construction projects, namely in Long Island City. This is good work that matters, especially when people are getting priced out to such a degree.
Bill de Blasio’s credibility comes from his experience working with the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and rents and housing are major concerns in the city. He also worked for Mayor David Dinkins in an administration that took the issue of homelessness and low-income housing to a new level, regardless of what other policies may not have worked out so well. This experience makes him a relevant candidate and it means that in the area of public policy, he brings some muscle.
De Blasio may not have the money and momentum that Gioia has right now. It’s late in the game, and it’s fair to say - in the spirit of Las Vegas - that Gioia would have odds of about 5-4, while de Blasio would be more of a 3-1 shot...which is not terrible for de Blasio, but the tide is with Gioia.
Mr. Shabbir Sayed is a citizen candidate and educated in London. But the advantage of having made the rounds at every cake sale and rotary club meeting in the last eight years is not his. If there was a citizen’s position in government, the Office of the Public Advocate would be it, but he lacks the name recognition needed to make a dent in this race.
Siegel is a far-left candidate that works as a civil rights attorney for the ACLU. Siegel does not pose a real threat to de Blasio or Gioia. His goal is most likely to shed light on some issues in which he cares.
And then we have Mark Green, running a campaign that should bear the slogan “Mark Green, Because He Can’t Sit Home.” Green was the city’s first public advocate. He has run for the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Senate, mayor of New York City, and attorney general of New York.
In fairness, Green worked for Ralph Nader and consumer groups before it was fashionable. But that was a long time ago. He has since run primaries against fellow Democrats and antagonized Republicans to the point where he is not really liked enough to garner the votes needed. A candidate cannot afford to look desperate, and Green is beginning to look that way.
Here is a story that might shed light on this point. For years, the New York City Department of Parks and Recreation used to issue nicknames to government employees that were actually logged in an official record by Starquest (the nickname of former Parks Commissioner Henry Stern.) People like Hillary Clinton (nicknamed “Everest,” as in Sir Edmund Hillary and his historic climb) were given these names until Mayor Bloomberg thought it was time for the agency to move on. Rumor has it that Green approached Stern when he was then seeking to be mayor of New York City and asked that he be given the nickname “Next” as in the next mayor. Stern, according to the story, rightfully declined.
Green is without question someone that understands city government. His party now rules the universe. This is a great time for him to act as a corner man to up-and-coming candidates. Instead, like a boxer that passes the physical but does not win the fights, he keeps coming back.
I was at an Emmy party two years ago when producer Lorne Michaels made the point that people are conditioned to not take “no” for an answer. “If you write scripts for years and years and people keep rejecting you, maybe you should eventually take no for an answer,” explained Michaels. For now, however, the smart money is on Gioia or de Blasio.
On Light Sabers
City Council candidate in the 19th District Dan Halloran posted this week that according to an online quiz that he took that his “Star Wars light saber was Green.” Dan, we have two words for you: Dennis Kucinich.