NEW YORK - Ending months of speculation, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced Thursday that he is entering the crowded field for president.
The official announcement was made via a YouTube video branded with the campaign slogan "Working People First."
In it, he takes direct aim at the president, saying, "Donald Trump must be stopped. I've beaten him before and I will do it again."
The mayor further discussed his decision to run on ABC's Good Morning America on Thursday morning. He was joined on set by his wife, Chirlane McCray.
De Blasio, who has never lost an election, is now the 23rd Democrat vying for the party's nomination.
With a skeleton staff and a relatively small amount of campaign cash, de Blasio is planning campaign stops in Iowa and South Carolina that will start Friday and end Sunday.
WHO'S RUNNING THE CITY IN THE MEANTIME?
De Blasio spent Wednesday meeting with city agency heads at Gracie Mansion. A source inside told NY1 that he didn't explicitly speak about the campaign, but "encouraged us all to run past the finish line as we sprint to the end."
The mayor's chief of staff, along with some members of his political action committee, the Fairness PAC, attended the meeting. It was one of the few times during de Blasio's tenure as mayor that he spoke to so many high-ranking officials within city government, all gathered in one place. First Deputy Mayor Dean Fuleihan, who also attended, would run the city in de Blasio's absence.
TAKING AIM AT TRUMP
De Blasio has immediately cast himself as the progressive voice to take on a bullying Trump, even giving him a nickname for the occasion:
"Donald Trump is playing a big con on America," the mayor said on Good Morning America. "I call him Con Don. Every New Yorker knows he is a con artist."
Of course, not everything was smooth sailing for the mayor. Outside of his appearance on Good Morning America, protesters gathered. Members of the NYPD union Police Benevolent Association protested the campaign launch, arguing the mayor should be focused on the city and giving police officers pay raises instead of trying to become president.
De Blasio: All American deserve that kind of opportunity to live a better life.
George Stephanopoulos: You say it's a tough city. We're hearing it outside, some protesters gathered.
De Blasio: A little serenade, George, a little serenade.
The mayor's campaign launch comes amid ongoing issues in New York City, such as:
- Crumbling public housing
- A record number of homeless New Yorkers
- A debate over de Blasio's proposal to change admissions at the city's specialized high schools
- A measles outbreak
- Budget negotiations
Immediately, some questioned where de Blasio shot his campaign video, questioning whether the mayor was misusing city resources. His campaign spokesperson fired back, saying the car was a campaign aide's, not his city car, and they had approval from the Conflicts of Interest Board to use Gracie Mansion as a backdrop.
Still, a chorus of New Yorkers slammed the mayor's chances, arguing he had plenty of other things to focus on at home.
In fact, de Blasio would not commit to a number of days in a week he would spend in the five boroughs.
"It will depend on the week, obviously," he said. "But I am going to be here a lot. Things are constantly going to happen. You are going to see it with your own eyes."
DE BLASIO'S NATIONAL TRAVEL
Besides Iowa and South Carolina, the mayor has already tested the waters in key presidential nominating states, including New Hampshire and Nevada. De Blasio has repeatedly said he wants to take his record in New York and expand it on a national scale. His travel across the nation has been paid for by his political action committee, the Fairness PAC. Those close to the PAC had insisted it wasn't established for de Blasio to run for president.
POOR POLLING NUMBERS
Early polling numbers show that the mayor has a lot of work to do on the campaign trail. And New York City voters don't approve of the idea of a presidential run; 76 percent said they didn't want him to run, according to an April Quinnipiac poll. Despite the data and warnings from allies, de Blasio has argued he has a message that resonates with voters, and he reminds people he was an underdog in the Democratic primary for mayor in 2013.
A RARE RUN BY A NEW YORK CITY MAYOR
De Blasio's run is an unusual move for a New York City mayor. He's the first sitting mayor to run for president since John Lindsay in 1972 — a campaign that barely got off the ground before it fizzled out. Lindsay encountered hecklers and protesters sent from New York, a situation de Blasio has already faced, as the police union paid for a negative billboard to follow him on some of his travels.
Lindsay's former aides told NY1 that the campaign trail can be grueling for a politician in de Blasio's shoes. "It is so difficult to be mayor of this city, and to be out of the city for the amount of time that a presidential campaign takes," said Sid Davidoff, now a lobbyist who served as Lindsay's deputy campaign manager.
THE BATTLE FOR PRESIDENTIAL BUCKS
Despite his PAC, de Blasio is entering the Democratic primary near the bottom of the pack when it comes to money. But perhaps he's hoping for a bump now that he's joining the race. Former Vice President Joe Biden raised more than $6 million in the first 24 hours of his campaign. California Sen. Kamala Harris pulled in $1.5 million. De Blasio has been raising money for his Fairness PAC, but the numbers are small compared to what's needed for a national campaign. His PAC raised $610,574 in 2018 and spent $559,201.
The number of donors a candidate has matters as well, at least when it comes to qualifying for primary debates. To qualify for next month's Democratic debate, a candidate needs to receive at least one percent in three qualifying polls or raise money from 65,000 donors. The mayor has not done either.
De Blasio is in his second term after being elected mayor in 2013 following stints as Public Advocate and in the City Council. In 2017, during a Democratic primary debate that NY1 hosted in the mayor's race, de Blasio promised he would serve all four years if re-elected. He is term-limited out of office at the end of 2021.
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