Bill de Blasio responds to questions after the Democratic New York City mayoral debate Tuesday, August 13, 2013, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
New York Public Advocate Bill de Blasio might just be elected the new mayor of America’s largest city.
And that has the current mayor of New York freaking out.
It’s not that Mike Bloomberg has much reason to fear that de Blasio would do harm to the city. When Bloomberg was elected mayor in 2001, de Blasio was elected to the city council, and though their positions differ on a good many issues, they have both worked within the broad mainstream of New York City politics and governance ever since.
But Bloomberg does fear de Blasio’s support for a slightly more equitable tax system—of the sort that might make New Yorkers like the billionaire mayor pay a few more bills.
So on the eve of the New York mayoral primary in which de Blasio is likely to beat the mayor’s unofficial favorite (City Council President Christine Quinn), Bloomberg was ripping the public advocate. Most of the headlines from Bloomberg over the weekend related to a bizarre comment he made about de Blasio’s highlighting of members of his family—including his African-American wife and their teenage son Dante—in public appearances and in television ads that focus on, among other things, the candidate’s long-standing opposition to the city’s “stop-and-frisk” law.
It is hard to imagine a more traditional political tactic than a candidate and his or her family campaigning together. But Bloomberg told New York magazine that de Blasio is running a “class warfare and racist” campaign because: “he’s making an appeal using his family to gain support. I think it’s pretty obvious to anyone watching what he’s been doing.”
That was a “Seriously?” moment, to which response has been universally negative. The mayor’s office went into damage-control mode immediately, complaining about the transcription of the taped interview; it was noted that Bloomberg said in the same interview of de Blasio: “I do not think he himself is racist.” But even Quinn labeled Bloomberg’s remark “unfortunate.”
The controversy distracted from another jab at de Blasio by the mayor—a hit that is likely to be central to the mayor’s effort to attack the public advocate in a potential mayoral primary runoff race (which is required if no Democratic contender gets more than 40 percent of the vote) and the November general election.
Bloomberg’s biggest gripe was with what he terms “class warfare.”