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New York Gears Up For Mayoral Race


Memories of Mayor Koch bring us to this year's crowded race to succeed Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Before Ed Koch's death, we spoke with Errol Louis, a long-time New York political journalist and the host of the TV show "Road to City Hall" on NY1. Democrats have a 6 to 1 registration advantage in New York, but there hasn't been a Democratic mayor of New York in almost 20 years.

ERROL LOUIS: This is true. There are two Republican mayors in a row - Rudy Giuliani had two terms; Mike Bloomberg had three. So, the last Democrat to win City Hall was David Dinkins in 1989.

SIMON: Well, even with that in mind, let's begin reviewing the candidates on the Democratic side of the ledger, because we have Christine Quinn of Manhattan - the current City Council speaker. She's close to Mayor Bloomberg. Does that help?

LOUIS: The trick is going to be to win the Democratic primary. And to do so, if you're seen as too close to a mayor who, in some respects has been somewhat controversial, the primary is going to probably be the very hardest thing you could try to do in politics in New York right now. There are Bloomberg Democrats out there, but they don't tend to come out in the primaries.

SIMON: What about William Thompson, Jr.? Originally of Brooklyn, now of Manhattan. He actually won the Democratic nomination four years ago and ran an unexpectedly close race.

LOUIS: Oh, absolutely. And interestingly enough, he's been part of the New York political establishment for a very long time. You hear people refer to him as Billy, because he's William Thompson, Jr. His father was prominent in politics, generally well-liked in very much a known quantity.

SIMON: Bill de Blasio of Brooklyn, the public advocate.

LOUIS: An interesting man - I guess you could still call him a young man. I was about to call him a young man. I've known him since we were both running around in sneakers. But he was an aide to David Dinkins. He was the campaign manager for Hillary Clinton when she ran for Senate here in New York and served a couple of terms in the New York City Council. So, he's been in and around this stuff for decades and now he thinks it's his time to go for the big chair.

SIMON: His family life has gotten more attention than maybe he wanted, right?

LOUIS: Well, yeah, sort of. Bill de Blasio's wife, Chirlane McCray, wrote an article way back in the 1970s about why she was a lesbian. And this was considered back in 1979 a little outside the box. And it surfaced again in recent months. And when asked about it, you know, they say, look, we are happily married, we have two adorable kids - here are their pictures - and that's all we have to say about it. And it was a very interesting moment to show the city, really show the world, how the conversation has changed about this. What could have been a career-ending disclosure 20 or 30 years ago wasn't much of a story at all.

SIMON: And maybe we should note, Christine Quinn is married is to her partner of longstanding.

LOUIS: Yes, indeed. If elected, she would not just be the first woman mayor of New York City, she would be the first openly gay or lesbian official elected citywide in New York's history.

SIMON: On the Republican side, there is a very strong candidate.

LOUIS: I'm not sure who you're referring to, honestly. I've interviewed several of them.

SIMON: Joseph Lhota.

LOUIS: Joe Lhota, sure. Joe Lhota used to be the chair of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. He ran the trains here. He was also a deputy mayor under Rudy Giuliani. Ton of experience, very knowledgeable guy, seen as somewhat formidable. And I wasn't being coy, Scott. I mean, when I asked who you meant, there's another guy in the race, John Catsimatidis, who's worth an estimated $3 billion and said that he'll spend $20 million to get himself elected without even thinking about it now. It's almost important to note that neither Joe Lhota nor any of the other Republican candidates have ever run for office before. And that's probably their biggest hurdle. The reality is these guys are not used to the grind of going from church basement to church basement, shaking hands and kissing babies and - I'm sure you've heard these stories too, Scott. You're not a real politician until you, you know, turn to someone and go to politely introduce yourself and then realize that it's your wife.


LOUIS: You know, that's when you've really, really been out there a little too long. But that's kind of what it takes. If you want to try to shake eight million hands, you better be ready mentally as well as physically.

SIMON: Mayor Bloomberg leaves office a national figure, and reportedly the 10th richest man in America. What's he want to do with the rest of his life? Do you have any inkling?

LOUIS: He's given some clues. I mean, one clue that he's given is that he wants to give away all of his money. That aside from taking care of his family, he wants to spend the last dollar on the day that he dies. And he probably doesn't mean that literally, but his pet causes, which are public health and gun control above all, he really has put quite a lot of money into trying to make sure those views are carried forward. And where this is all supposed to lead, assuming the White House is off-limits, is just not clear. But we do know that Mike Bloomberg would have loved to be president, and if ever a chance comes up in the next few years, he will probably take that shot.

SIMON: Errol Louis, host of "The Road to City Hall" on NY1, thanks so much.

LOUIS: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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