NEW YORK — Ray McGuire, a veteran Wall Street executive who became one of the highest-ranking Black executives in the financial industry, on Tuesday night formally announced his run for mayor with a video narrated by a close friend who has a lot more name recognition among New Yorkers than the candidate himself: filmmaker Spike Lee.
The video shows McGuire, who stepped down from his post as vice chairman of the banking giant Citigroup last month, running through a near-desolate Times Square as the narrator describes the current state of the city: battered by a pandemic, in a financial tailspin, and in need of new leadership. Lee is a friend of McGuire and just one example of the star power the campaign is looking to roll out with its launch. The music was provided by jazz legend Wynton Marsalis.
"It's crazy out here," Lee says over a jazz riff as a montage of McGuire shows him dressed in running clothes and a pair of Air Jordan Bred XI's. "People are asking, is this it? Is New York over? We have an opportunity to rebuild, and that starts with who is leading our city."
The video goes on to detail McGuire's life story: He's a 63-year-old Dayton, Ohio native, raised by a single mother who then went on to Harvard University and became an unlikely American success story despite growing up on "the other, other side of the tracks," he says.
It is presented as an image of survival and self-made triumph, which the campaign believes will appeal to New Yorkers looking for a leader with management experience at a time of deep crisis. They also believe his knowledge and connections to the business sector will be a plus after eight years of the de Blasio administration, which did not often publicly — or privately — embrace big business.
But it could also alienate progressive voters wary of a candidate with deep ties to Wall Street and corporate America. McGuire is virtually unknown to most New Yorkers, compared to the rest of the mayoral field, which includes longtime politicians like Scott Stringer and Eric Adams.
There are natural comparisons to another figure from Wall Street who took over in a fiscal crisis: former mayor Michael Bloomberg.
"He would be the second businessman mayor in 120 years," said Kathryn Wylde, president and CEO of the Partnership for New York City, a not-for-profit that works with the city's business leaders, government, and labor. "The business community is excited that there is someone from their world in the race, but he's new to the political world and that is a steep climb.”
McGuire's aides push back at any comparison to Bloomberg. Those close to him say the two only share their Wall Street background; how they got there is what sets them apart.
McGuire has secured experienced political strategists and aides to run his campaign:
- Basil Smikle Jr., who most recently served as executive director of the New York State Democratic Party, will serve as campaign manager
- Lupe Todd-Medina, a strategist with close ties to the Brooklyn Democratic establishment, will serve as senior adviser and director of communications
- Veteran strategist L. Joy Williams is serving as a senior adviser
- Tyquana Henderson-Rivers will serve as senior strategist for politics and field
- The campaign’s fundraising team includes Shari Yost Gold and Amanda Bailey. Gold is a veteran fundraiser, and both women recently worked with Vice President-elect Kamala Harris and Bloomberg’s presidential bids.
"Ray's message is that we are going to be able to manage these three crises of health care, of the economy, and concerns around race and diversity," Smikle said. "It's going to be headed by someone who has relationships in both public- and private-sector life, and relationships that can bring a lot to bear when it comes to bringing the city back."
The campaign has also hired John Del Cecato, a familiar name in city politics perhaps best known for his work behind a political ad showing then candidate Bill de Blasio and his teenage son, Dante, talking about stop and frisk. The ad helped catapult de Blasio to the front of a crowded field of candidates in the primary race for mayor in 2013.
But despite the experienced campaign team around him, McGuire will face a significant challenge in introducing himself to New Yorkers in the seven months between now and the June primary.
With the coronavirus pandemic still forcing limits on gatherings and preventing typical campaign events from taking place, he may only have limited exposure to voters who will pick from a growing field of candidates seeking the Democratic nomination.
"There are multiple challenges in this race. Our normal campaign craft diminishes in some ways," Smikle said. “It's going to be a bit of a sprint, but I think we have a really good campaign, it has a lot of veterans that are from the city, know the city, and care about the city deeply, as does Ray.”
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