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NY1's Grace Rauh and Courtney Gross examine what's shaped the lives of mayoral candidates Bill de Blasio and Joseph Lhota in this two-week special series.

The Contenders: In City Council, De Blasio Loses Speaker Race, Chairs General Welfare Committee

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In Part 4 of NY1's series "The Contenders," NY1's Grace Rauh chronicles Bill de Blasio's head-first jump into life as a politician, where the Democratic nominee for mayor won a crowded race for City Council in 2002 and did not slow down, even after losing a fight to be speaker.

Bill de Blasio's opponents in the City Council race to represent Park Slope and nearby neighborhoods just could not compete. They did not have the political celebrity that de Blasio enjoyed.

His former boss, Hillary Clinton, appeared with him at a local Jewish center, and former governor Mario Cuomo recorded a robocall on his behalf. De Blasio was even name-checked in the popular television drama "The West Wing."

In the City Council, de Blasio got down to business. He made a play for the speakership in 2005, losing to Christine Quinn. Baruch Professor Doug Muzzio moderated a debate between the candidates.

"Essentially, they used two different strategies," Muzzio said. "Bill used what I would call a council members' strategy: going to all the council members and trying to pull together the 26 votes needed to be speaker. Chris played the traditional county leader strategy, and she put together the winning coalition."

De Blasio became chairman of the General Welfare committee, a position that soon thrust him into the spotlight. A 7-year-old girl, Nixzmary Brown, was found dead. She was beaten and tortured by her stepfather. It turned out that the city's child welfare agency had been aware of possible abuse. NY1 carried the council hearing on the case live.

"We have to re-evaluate all of our policies, including what allows us to remove a child when there is a danger," de Blasio said at the hearing.

In 2008, de Blasio fought the mayor's plan to extend term limits. He set his signs on the office of public advocate, a race he won.

"His affable public persona can mislead people into thinking that he's not, at the same time, a very shrewd political operator," said Mark Green, who lost that public advocate race to de Blasio.

In the end, the public advocate's office proved to be an effective launching pad for an even bigger campaign: running for mayor of New York City.

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