Hakeem Jeffries for Mayor?
Few would dispute that it’s been a tough summer for NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio.
From the ill-advised fight with Uber, to accusations of mishandling the critical outreach portion of an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease in the Bronx, to his high profile spat with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, to his misadventures at the Park Slope YMCA while a deadly standoff unfolded on Staten Island.
The headlines have been brutal, and now some believe the political winds have begun to blow in a decidedly new direction.
Few potential challengers would ever openly commit to launching a primary challenge against a sitting mayor – especially this early in the game. But ‘lo and behold over the last few days, potential names have begun to surface as trial balloons. And many of those whose names have been floated are doing very little to tamp down the public chatter.
The bottom line is this: some potential challengers smell blood in the water.
Then there are those whom the political consultants call “the real players” – Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. (Interestingly, all three are former state lawmakers).
But sources say the strongest potential candidate is the one guy who has ruled it out publicly, and that is Brooklyn Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, a former assemblyman who told Errol Louis during an “Inside City Hall” interview on Aug. 5th: “I’ve got no interest in running for mayor or holding any other job other than the one I have now.”
Jeffries spokesman Michael Hardaway reiterated that to me by phone Thursday saying” “Congressman Jeffries’ sole focus is serving the people of the 8th Congressional District.”
But sources close to Jeffries say he is now reconsidering. And there are three core constituency groups that de Blasio has lost that seem to be coalescing around a possible Jeffries candidacy.
-The Education Reform community, or more broadly the “donor community.” This is a group of people who have taken an “I told you so” attitude when it comes to de Blasio lately. They feel as though his tone deafness on education reform (mostly opposing charter school expansion) is emblematic of a problem on other issues – whether it’s the perceived explosion of the homeless population, or basic concerns about competency.
Some have even questioned the mayor’s interest in actually governing, which includes running the day-to-day operations of the city and ensuring that all is well. More importantly, many of these donors have always been “big fans of Hakeem.”
The mayor will be tested early next year when the Albany legislative session begins. Some wonder whether he will continue to be focused on leading a progressive revolution, or more inclined to try and reach compromise and achieve tangible results for the city. It would probably behoove him to focus on the latter, given his looming re-election bid.
The other piece of this is that de Blasio has had trouble raising money. The donor community, if properly motivated, can easily sway the battle for big bucks towards a challenger. They aren’t referred to as “the donor community” for nothing.
-The Tech Community, which includes the young professionals who have embraced Uber. Many people agree the Uber fight was not a high point for the mayor. That is in part because young, left-leaning and tech-savvy people who supported de Blasio now see evidence of a guy sticking up for the old way of doing things by supporting the yellow taxi industry.
It didn’t help that there appeared to be a correlation between donations to de Blasio from medallion owners and the mayor’s opposition to Uber. As a result, some of those idealists suddenly saw the mayor as “just like every other politician.”
Two million people in New York City have signed up for Uber. That includes young people who live outside Manhattan, but within the five boroughs. Many live so far away from subway stops (because that is all they can afford) that they pool with neighbors to take a $5 Uber ride from their homes to the nearest train.
One of the most popular things Uber did during its fight with de Blasio was unveil an anti-City Hall message on its app. Now let’s just say that when Primary Day 2017 rolls around, Uber is still so incensed at the mayor that it decided to offer free rides to the polls for two million people to vote against the incumbent. All Uber really needs to do is slightly alter the coding on that same app. If a fraction of voters were to take the company up on the offer, it would be a big problem for de Blasio.
The tech community is up for grabs, meaning they could easily go to Stringer or Adams or anybody else. But Jeffries is young at 45 years old, which is just about that borderline age between understanding how your phone works and barely being able to dial it. The congressman can probably find some common ground with this young, accomplished and tech savvy up-and-coming generation.
-The African American Establishment or Black Power Base. Some of the city’s most prominent African-American leaders have already started to express frustration with de Blasio over criminal justice issues.
A meeting in Harlem earlier this year resulted in more than a few disgruntled individuals who feel as though the current administration hasn’t kept its promises. Jeffries was a strong voice in that meeting. Both Calvin Butts and Bertha Lewis have run into their own difficulties with the de Blasio administration. The latest Q poll showed the mayor with a 64 percent approval rating among black voters. That is still high, but it has been slipping – down from 78 percent in January.
What’s also interesting is that political power in the black community has been shifting steadily over the years from the old guard in Harlem to the new one in Brooklyn, which, of course, is home to Jeffries’ district. In the 2013 primary, for the first time ever, voter turnout in the areas Jeffries represents beat the turnout on Manhattan’s Upper West Side – the old lefty standby. This core group of Brooklyn voters helped carry the election for de Blasio.
It’s hard to say if they would definitely swing towards the congressman instead, should he choose to run, but that will certainly be something “Draft Jeffries” supporters will be exploring.
Part of the problem for Jeffries is that if he were to jump in, he probably wouldn’t clear the field. Insiders believe if he makes the leap, he would quickly face challenges from Stringer and Adams, who would also smell opportunity. Working in all of these Democrats’ favor is that there is precedent for this. David Dinkins defeated Ed Koch in the 1989 Democratic primary. And Koch defeated Abe Beame in crowded primary in 1977, after Beame had served just one term as mayor.
The difference between Jeffries and some of the other potential Democratic challengers to de Blasio is that Jeffries, who serves in Congress, would not have to give up his seat to run. Stringer, James, Diaz Jr., and Adams all would.
There are those who say it is way too early for anyone to be having any serious conversations about 2017. The primary is two years away, which is an eternity in politics.
But then there are others who say it’s never to early to get the ball rolling. And sources say there are absolutely many conversations taking place right now precisely about who could mount a formidable challenge and chart a path to victory. You can bet de Blasio and his people are paying attention. But right now, the mayor is playing it cool. Asked about rivals attempting to take him on in 2017 mayor de Blasio said Thursday:
“Anyone who wants to run against me? God bless them. I’d like to see what they are going to put up in comparison in terms of a record of achievement for the people of this city. So, come one, come all.”
|Print article||This entry was posted by Zack Fink on August 21, 2015 at 8:36 am, and is filed under 2017, Bill de Blasio, Democrats, Downstate NY. Follow any responses to this post through RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.|
Comments are closed.