NEW YORK — New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio is making moves toward a possible run for president, soliciting City Hall staffers with national political experience and preparing to travel to the early primary state of New Hampshire this week, several sources familiar with his plans told POLITICO.
After a visit to Harvard’s Kennedy School to discuss his time as mayor this Thursday, de Blasio will travel the next morning to Nashua, N.H. There he will meet with Mayor Jim Donchess and may chat with locals at a diner, City Hall Communications Director Mike Casca confirmed.
On Friday evening, de Blasio will drive to Concord, where he will meet with local organizers of the group Rights & Democracy, New Hampshire, which describes itself as part of a “movement across the region to counter the influence of money in politics.”
“He wants to make sure ideas like pre-K for all, paid personal time and mental health are on the table as Democrats debate the party’s vision for the future,” Casca said in a prepared statement, referring to some of de Blasio’s key policy priorities as mayor.
Casca, one of two City Hall aides assisting with de Blasio’s early presidential ambitions, previously worked for Bernie Sanders on his 2016 presidential campaign and in his Senate office.
Jon Paul Lupo, one of the mayor’s top political aides who has extensive national campaign experience, is also working on the effort. The city’s Conflicts of Interest Board determined Lupo could split his time between City Hall and the mayor’s federal fundraising arm, Fairness PAC, Casca said. So far, he said, Lupo is only using vacation days for the mayor’s national flirtation.
They will travel to New Hampshire Friday with another City Hall staffer who has national campaign experience, Jaclyn Rothenberg. Casca said their travel will be paid by the Fairness PAC. Harvard is covering the cost of the mayor’s visit and coverage for the rest of his trip will be determined after he decides whether to stop in Albany for an annual legislative caucus on the way home.
As the 2020 Democratic field fills up, de Blasio has yet to assemble staff, set up an exploratory committee or raise money. At least three top City Hall officials have decided they would not work on a 2020 campaign — Chief of Staff Emma Wolfe, Press Secretary Eric Phillips and First Deputy Mayor Dean Fuleihan, the sources said.
De Blasio has repeatedly said he is not ruling out a run and has long sought a national platform. But City Hall officials have privately lamented a de Blasio push for a higher national profile, worried it would generate negative headlines and distract de Blasio from his day job.
In 2016, de Blasio’s effort to influence the presidential election went awry when he couldn’t get candidates to attend a forum he wanted to host; he then scored an undesirable speaking slot at the Democratic National Convention. De Blasio ended up endorsing Hillary Clinton, but the embrace was awkward — the mayor has assailed Democrats like Clinton as not progressive enough.
This time around, he has seized on several catchphrases intended to portray him as a left-of-center Democrat who wants to redistribute wealth and eschew the middle-of-the-road policies he has sometimes embraced, both as mayor and in his endorsements of Clinton and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
“There’s plenty of money in this city. It’s just in the wrong hands,” he declared at his State of the City address last month.
If he runs, de Blasio will tout his record of expanding a paid sick days law, instituting two years of a rent freeze for rent-stabilized apartments and providing pre-kindergarten for all 4-year-olds — his signature achievement.
Other matters would likely to haunt his candidacy.
Despite his affordable housing plan, the city remains too expensive for many residents whose wages have stagnated. The homeless population has increased on his watch, and the public housing authority is in such dire straits the Trump administration recently imposed a federal monitor.
Article originally published on POLITICO Magazine
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