By Tom Allon
Conventional wisdom is rarely correct in political campaigns, and early front-runners also don’t often make it first to the finish line. Just ask Hillary Clinton, Christine Quinn or Mark Green.
The old fable of the tortoise and the hare comes to mind when reflecting on the recent Democratic mayoral campaign. Slow and steady won the race, and I must tip my hat to city Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and his entire campaign team, especially his exceptionally talented TV commercial producer John Del Cecato.
De Blasio ran the most authentic campaign, and his message was clear from the start. He didn’t waver when he was way back in the polls and he confidently continued to lay out a different vision for the future than his opponents.
De Blasio is an appealing and likable man. I got to know him and meet his wife during the campaign — when I was running — and even though he and I occasionally disagreed on some issues, he was always respectful. We even developed a light-hearted banter about our different views. I came to respect and admire him more as the campaign continued, and if he wins in November, he has the potential to be a strong mayor.
De Blasio’s rise is also a product of an interesting geographic shift in our city: He is from Brooklyn, which has climbed out of Manhattan’s shadow in the past decade and is the place talented young people yearn to live and work. As the first mayor from outside Manhattan in a while, it will be interesting to see how de Blasio is able to equalize opportunity for all New Yorkers.
Joe Lhota, the Republican nominee, is also a Brooklyn resident and he has an impressive background that would make him a potentially strong mayor. Yet the party registration disparity — six Dems to every Republican — and the shifting demographics of the city make his candidacy an uphill climb.
De Blasio is too smart and humble to make some of the same mistakes Democratic nominee Mark Green made in 2001 that cost him the election to Mike Bloomberg. As many are saying, it will take an extraordinary event for Lhota to catch de Blasio, who is ahead by 43 points in the first poll.
But in politics, anything can happen.
De Blasio’s campaign team and coherent message bodes well for an effective administration. One of the most important aspects of the mayor’s job is to pick great deputy mayors and commissioners. If the campaign team is proof of de Blasio’s ability to spot talent, we can be confident he will bring the best and the brightest to City Hall. In fact, if he wins, I wouldn’t be surprised if de Blasio brings in talent from around the country to energize city government with new ideas and the best practices from other cities.
One thing that would also be interesting to see is if de Blasio would potentially take a page from President Barack Obama’s — and Abraham Lincoln’s — playbook and form a “team of rivals.” Would Christine Quinn make a good deputy as Hillary Clinton made a great U.S. secretary of state? If Obama and Clinton could patch up their rivalry, there’s no reason de Blasio and Quinn couldn’t bury the hatchet for the good of the city.
Who would be de Blasio’s police commissioner, arguably the second most important job in the city? I like former Police Commissioner Bill Bratton, who seems willing to come back to his old job. His track record in New York and Los Angeles would lead me to believe he would be the right commissioner to mend stop-and-frisk but still maintain the city’s record-breaking run of crime reduction.
For city schools chancellor, de Blasio is likely to pick someone who will anger the charter school and education reform community. Although it’s hard to imagine de Blasio continuing the Bloomberg administration’s hard-charging school reform agenda, it will be tricky to switch gears quickly, particularly with the new Common Core curriculum bedeviling educators around the city. This key choice of chancellor will be telling about de Blasio’s plans for his first term.
This is all theoretical now because there are still six weeks left until the general election, but based on his poll lead, it might make sense to start getting used to spelling de Blasio’s last name.
Or just start preparing to call him “Hizzoner,” a favorite appellation of the late Ed Koch.
Tom Allon, president of City & State NY, was a Republican and Liberal Party-backed mayoral candidate in 2013 before he left to return to the private sector. Reach him at email@example.com.