By former Assemblymember Steven Sanders
Last week I saw Mayor Bill de Blasio on a local newscast giving an interview from the Iowa State Fair. He looked very relaxed in his shirtsleeves with no tie or jacket. I think he had just eaten a corndog, a local favorite. He seemed a million miles away from the daily cares of his actual job as chief executive of New York City. To be precise, he was about eleven hundred miles away from home.
Hizzoner was enjoying himself free from the problems of the disgraceful public housing conditions, the mass transit infrastructure woes, another police suicide, the worry about a terrorist attack in Chelsea with the discovery of what appeared at first to be improvised explosive devices. You know, some of the stuff that requires a Mayor to be on the job 24/7. But Bill de Blasio assures us that he is in communication with his staff every hour. That sort of makes him New York’s first Skype Mayor.
To be sure, everyone deserves a vacation and respite from their job. But Bill de Blasio has been spending chunks of time out of the city on a regular basis for the better part of 2019. His venue of choice has been Iowa because that is the first state which will be holding a Presidential nominee contest in just five months.
So instead of focusing on the problems of New York City and rewarding the trust that the voters placed in him less two years ago, he is wooing new voters in Des Moines for his longshot presidential bid. Doing that is definitely more fun than the thankless grind of dealing with the complexities of the Big Apple and all the critics in the press and elsewhere. But governing the city in person is what he signed on to do and is what his constituents expect from him.
But back to his interview. Despite running dead last in a field of over 20 candidates with less than 1% support in the polls, Bill de Blasio remains steadfast and optimistic. He justifies his continued campaign there by saying how nicely those mid-west folks are treating him and the many people who encourage him to stay the course. So if you were planning a trip to City Hall or Gracie Mansion any time soon, don’t expect to bump into the mayor.
De Blasio is buoyed by the notion that if he can make a good showing in Iowa and shock the pundits, his campaign could take off. Of course, there are some 19 other candidates with the same aspirations. Only a very few, maybe four or five, will get any boost from the Iowa Caucus next January.
As for the good folks of Iowa, they are a polite and down to earth bunch, not unlike residents of Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village who during the summer months can be found sitting on the benches shooting the breeze. Nice, friendly people who would not be rude or insult a visiting politician by telling her or him that they have no chance whatsoever and to go home.
It reminds me of Bradley Berger, an acquaintance of mine who was an engaging but novice candidate for the State Assembly back in 1976. He was preparing to run in the Democratic Primary against then-incumbent Andrew Stein who was much better known and accomplished.
One day during that summer, Bradley told me that he just finished spending a weekend afternoon walking through Stuyvesant Town and around the Oval talking to people gathered about and in the playgrounds. He remarked to me, “Steven, I really think I have a chance to win this thing! Everyone is so nice and complimentary.” I thought to myself he must be delusional to mistake friendly courtesy for actual political support. When the Primary Election results came in a month later, Bradley lost in a landslide by 83% to 17%.
As an inexperienced candidate for public office, Bradley Berger could be excused for his unrealistic optimism. And as a private citizen, he was campaigning on his own time. What’s Bill de Blasio’s excuse?