As many New Yorkers are relaxing on this Labor Day morning, the candidates for mayor are preparing to march in the steamy West Indian American Day Parade in Brooklyn, the start of the final sprint to Primary Day on September 10.
If they had a chance to scan The New York Times over their morning coffee before heading to Crown Heights, they’d see a tough op-ed column by Lee Siegel, which celebrates the mayoral candidacy of Norman Mailer in 1969 and says this year’s crop of candidates is “boring.”
“New York used to produce mayoral candidates like Mailer, figures who exemplified the city’s vaunting dimensions,’’ Siegel sniffs.
It’s worth noting that New Yorkers overwhelmingly rejected Mailer’s maverick candidacy. The great writer finished fourth in the Democratic primary with five percent of the vote – badly trailing Mario Procaccino, Robert Wagner and Herman Badillo. I’d argue that the trio that trounced Mailer is no more - or less - exciting than our current crop of candidates.
Earlier this year, I heard laments about the lack of excitement in the mayoral race, but those complaints have largely subsided. There have been more dramatic and weird twists and turns on the campaign trail than anyone could have predicted. (Who would have thought that both Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer would have barged back into the political arena, or that Dante de Blasio’s afro would have its own Twitter handle?) And there have been some serious discussions about the future of New York and the direction of the city’s education and crime-fighting policies.
If you’ve watched any of the mayoral debates, you’d see that most of the candidates are highly-versed in the many issues that the city is confronting. The field includes the current city comptroller, a former comptroller, the public advocate, the City Council speaker, a former congressman, a former city councilman and a former deputy mayor. These people already largely know how to fly the plane – and are all greatly more versed in city government than a billionaire novice, whose run for mayor in 2001 was regarded by many as an expensive vanity project.
Sure, Christine Quinn’s memoir wasn’t exactly “The Armies of the Night," but we’re electing someone who can make the trains run on time, not be the city’s poet laureate. The mayoral field deserves a break from the naysayers and the doom-forecasters, who are sweating out the post-Bloomberg era. There were plenty of people who were worried about Rudy Giuliani leaving office less than four months after 9/11. And the city somehow survived – and thrived.