Friday, October 24, 2014

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Errol Louis interviews newsmakers from New York City and beyond on NY1's Inside City Hall program, every weeknight at 7 p.m. and 10 p.m.

A Day On The Campaign Trail With Bill De Blasio

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This week, NY1's Grace Rauh followed Democratic mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio as he spent a day on the campaign trail. She filed the following report.

It is quiet on 11th Street in Park Slope at 8 a.m. as Bill de Blasio and his wife, Chirlane McCray, head out for the day. A morning of campaigning on the Upper West Side awaits them.

McCray is playing the most prominent role of any spouse in the campaign. One-time presidential candidate Howard Dean comes out to help as well, at a campaign stop that takes place at around 10 a.m.

"I have a feeling that Bill's going to do a better job as the front-runner than I did," Dean says.

That de Blasio has become the front-runner in a bruising Democratic primary is stunning to some observers. Just last month, the public advocate was polling in fourth place, but Anthony Weiner's numbers plummeted after his second scandal, and de Blasio began his dramatic rise.

Outside a subway stop, the formula is straightforward: Talk to voters, take pictures and sign up willing New Yorkers with the campaign. De Blasio is also trying to win over anyone who has not make up their mind.

de Blasio: Undecided!
McCray: Housing? Health care?
Prospective Voter: It's not about that...

Kathleen Turner makes an unexpected appearance. She's backing de Blasio.

de Blasio: Has the campaign been in touch?
Turner: Not enough.

There are critics, though, and some are not afraid to confront the candidate.

"I think his exploiting of his own son is sickening. That's just my view of him," said one prospective voter. "He did absolutely nothing for four years but run for mayor."

That voter said he is supporting City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.

From there, de Blasio is off to Lower Manhattan to pick up an endorsement from Brad Lander, his successor in the City Council, at approximately 1 p.m.

"Time and again in the past, on the issues that matter for those that care about a more just and equal city, Bill de Blasio has been there," Lander said.

After saying his goodbyes, de Blasio meets us a few blocks away at 1:45 p.m. for a brief interview. Campaign aides say that since Primary Day is so close, his time is limited, every minute occupied. He fuels up when he can.

"It was an oatmeal molasses cookie, so it was like a healthy cookie from a farm stand," he says. "So I justified it entirely."

I ask him to look into the future and explain how the city would be different four years from now, at the end of his first term as mayor.

"If we make sure every child in this city has full-day pre-K, that's going to address disparities in education in a very meaningful way," he says.

"The plan I put forward to bring police and community back together, people are going to feel a very different approach. Their rights are going to be respected," he adds.

"There's hundreds of thousands of people who don't get paid sick days who should right now, and that would be a priority," he also adds.

It is an approach fundamentally different from that of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and de Blasio is playing up the differences, presenting himself as a change candidate who will make a clean break from the current administration.

"In Bloomberg's view, after he leaves, everything goes to hell. Well, I think a lot of people in New York City would say quite the opposite," de Blasio said. "We don't share Bloomberg's vision. We don't want to continue the inequalities in this city.

We part ways and meet up again two hours later in Flatbush for an unannounced campaign stop.

De Blasio is making a big push for black voters, and it seems to be working. Some say they are responding to his promise to reign in the police department's use of stop-and-frisk. The racial make-up of de Blasio's family seems to be a factor as well.

"Bill de Blasio has been there for us," says Democratic District Leader Rodneyse Bichotte. "He's in our radio stations. He's in our churches. He's at our parties. He's at our christenings, and so forth. He's there on the ground. You can touch him and feel him. My community best can relate to him."

After some more campaigning in the heat, de Blasio ducks into an air-conditioned drug store for a quick bathroom break. Then, it's off to Harlem at approximately 6:30 p.m. to attend a vigil for a transgender woman who was beaten to death.

De Blasio is with his wife once again. Their two children, Dante and Chiara, join them.

Back at home, at approximately 8:30 p.m., the candidate and his family are ready to call it a day. But there is still time for some goofing around.

"You're the only journalist in the world who's gotten the back-to-back comparison," de Blasio says.

At 6 feet, 5 inches tall, de Blasio has a solid lead over his son. The question, though, is whether Dante's famous afro counts in the competition.

Bill de Blasio: No. Hair does not count.
Dante de Blasio: It won't have to.
Bill de Blasio: Hair doesn't count. Here. This is what you have.

De Blasio's black wife and mixed-race children have helped propel him to where he is today. Images of the family are central to the campaign.

"I can't say that I haven't been nervous about them being out there sometimes," McCray says. "But watching how they handle themselves is just, it's amazing."

Dante has starred in two television ads. I ask how that happened.

"I was a little hesitant at first. I was a little insecure about my presence on the screen," he says. "But I guess we all came together as a family to decide."

And as a family, they then head in for the night.

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