This is the political equivalent of the monkeypox outbreak.
Just when we thought we were done with one plague, another pops up to make us miserable anew.
It’s common for legislators to seek executive office, whether statewide as governors or nationwide as president. It’s less common to see someone who’s held executive office seek to become a legislator, especially if that legislative role isn’t statewide a la the U.S. Senate. Why is a guy who held “the second toughest job in America” angling to become a backbencher in the House — in what may be a smallish Democratic House minority, no less?
Simple. The prospect of obscurity after having served eight years as mayor of New York is intolerable to him. It’s been a long time, in fact, since an ex-mayor of NYC has retreated into private life after leaving office. Mike Bloomberg is still Mike Bloomberg, titan of finance and publisher of Bloomberg News. Rudy Giuliani? You know about him. You have to go back to David Dinkins, who left office in the early 1990s, to find a former mayor who occupied no role in the public consciousness after leaving the job.
Bill de Blasio doesn’t want to become the first in 30 years. As others have noted, the “tell” in today’s announcement that he’s running for Congress is that he opted to do it on a national television show like “Morning Joe” instead of doing it on local television in NYC. This is a guy who ran for president two years ago in a primary overflowing with stronger candidates, after he’d already turned politically radioactive to his own constituents, because he enjoys the spotlight just that much. At last check, his favorable rating in New York was 25/56, lower than post-scandal Andrew Cuomo’s. He knows people don’t like him. He knows he’s become something of a national joke.
He doesn’t care. Having achieved an elite status of political celebrity as mayor, he’s not going back to Dinkins-esque obscurity.
He’s barely even formulated an argument for why he should represent New York’s 10th District in the House, in fact. Watch him wander through this forest of cliches about how “people are hurting,” he knows how to help, yadda yadda.
It’s my solemn duty to inform you that de Blasio is probably the frontrunner in this race as of today. Per the Times, the other Democratic hopefuls eyeing a run in the 10th District are all no-name state legislators. He’d have a major advantage by dint of pure recognition.
For now. If the field stays that way.
But it might not. The backstory here is interesting.
For the past decade, New York’s 10th has been Jerry Nadler’s home district. He’s an institution in city politics, having held his House seat for 30 years. Democrat Carolyn Maloney is another institution, arriving in Congress in the same freshman class as Nadler and having represented New York’s 12th District since 2013. As of this week, thanks to the redistricting fiasco in New York that Ed wrote about yesterday, they’re residents of the same district — the newly redrawn 12th. It was assumed that either Nadler or Maloney would opt to run in a different district, possibly the 10th, in order to avoid facing each other in a primary.
But that assumption was incorrect. Nadler declared immediately after the new district map was published that he’d run in the 12th, where he lives. His longtime friend Maloney was taken aback by his presumptuousness:
“I thought it was disrespectful. We’ve served together a long time. He’s running in my district,” Upper East Side congresswoman Carolyn Maloney told The Post of her longtime fellow House member Jerrold Nadler’s sudden announcement that he’d be challenging for her long-held seat after being drawn out of his own…
She called Nadler to see if they could work together to try to get the House lines altered. Nadler, according to Maloney, said it was a waste of time and told her to run in another district…
“I’ve never lost an election and I don’t intend to start now,” she told The Post.
That was ballsy of ol’ Jerry Nads, telling Maloney to get out of what’s currently her own district. Now her pride is wounded. “I live in the 12th (District). Now I’m going to run in the 12th. It’s 61% Maloney and 39% Nadler. The tip is his district that goes into Borough Park in Brooklyn, an area that he’s represented for 30 years,” Maloney told the Washington Times. “And I live in the 12th, so he announced he’s running against me in my district, So I’m all in.”
Nadler and Maloney are going to fight — unless one of them decides that their path to reelection is stronger in another district. Which, according to Dave Wasserman, happens to be the case for Nadler:
The crazy part about NY (assuming special master map holds today) is that Reps. Sean Patrick Maloney (D) and Jerry Nadler (D) would probably have clearer paths to reelection in #NY18 and #NY10 respectively. But by choosing to run where they live, they’ve set up brutal primaries.
— Dave Wasserman (@Redistrict) May 20, 2022
That brings us back to de Blasio. Maybe he’s looking at the map too and speculating that Nadler may soon think better of his challenge to Maloney and opt to run in the 10th District instead. If so, de Blasio would want to declare his own candidacy ASAP, reasoning that Nadler might think twice about running in the 10th if he knows that he’ll have to face de Blasio. I think that’s nutty, as Maloney is certainly a more formidable opponent than a highly unpopular former mayor. But we’re talking about a guy who was capable of deluding himself into thinking he might win the Democratic nomination for president two years ago. If he could believe that, he can believe that he might scare Jerry Nadler in a Democratic primary.
And hey, anything’s possible. Nadler is a dinosaur who’s disliked by the left. Eliot Engel, another longtime New York City congressman, was successfully primaried by progressive Jamaal Bowman two years ago. If Bowman could mobilize left-wing voters to take out Engel, de Blasio might believe he can mobilize left-wing voters to take out Nadler. I’m skeptical, but it’d nice to have a primary where either Jerry Nadler or Bill de Blasio is guaranteed to lose.
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