New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, the twice-elected chief executive of the nation’s largest city, announced Thursday that he is joining the Democratic field of presidential candidates, pledging in a campaign video that he would “put working people first.”
“There’s plenty of money in this world. There’s plenty of money in this country. It’s just in the wrong hands,” de Blasio says at the outset of the video, in which he recounts his liberal agenda as mayor and pledges to stand up to President Trump. “I’m a New Yorker. I’ve known Trump’s a bully for a long time. This is not news to me or anyone here, and I know how to take him on.”
In his first public appearance as a candidate, de Blasio said on ABC’s “Good Morning America” that he considers Trump to be “Con Don” because he has “conned us into thinking he’s on the side of working people.”
Trump blasted de Blasio on Twitter shortly afterward. “He is a JOKE, but if you like high taxes & crime, he’s your man,” the president wrote. “NYC HATES HIM!”
De Blasio, 58, plans to travel to Iowa and South Carolina this week for a series of introductory campaign events.
The entry of another liberal politician in the crowded Democratic field provides one more option for the wing of the primary electorate that seeks to counter the era of Trump with policies that are more aggressive and disruptive than those of President Barack Obama.
De Blasio’s tenure in New York has been marked by a dramatic shift in policy focus to support lower-income residents, with new initiatives to support mental health services, provide more affordable housing and create new early-childhood education options.
In his video, de Blasio touts his efforts to raise the city’s minimum wage to $15, mandate sick leave, expand access to health care and provide free prekindergarten classes.
Asked how he plans to distinguish himself in the crowded Democratic field, de Blasio told reporters in New York: “There are some really good people in this race, but what I bring is an absolute total focus on putting working people first.”
As a late arrival to the race, de Blasio might not qualify for the first Democratic presidential debate in June, which requires earning 1 percent in three public polls, or receiving 65,000 donors from at least 20 states by June 13. Two other more recent entries, Montana Gov. Steve Bullock and Sen. Michael F. Bennet of Colorado, are also not certain to qualify for the debates.
De Blasio was born in Manhattan and spent most of his childhood in Cambridge, Mass. After his parents divorced when he was 7, he was raised primarily by his mother and her family, and as a young adult he adopted the last name of her family.
He returned to New York for college, and after serving as campaign manager for then-Rep. Charles B. Rangel (D-N.Y.) and then-Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.), de Blasio was first elected in 2001 to the New York City Council as a representative in Brooklyn. He then was elected to become the city’s public advocate, a post in which he became a vocal critic of then-Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, setting the stage for his first mayoral campaign in 2013.
As mayor, De Blasio dramatically reduced the practice under Bloomberg’s administration of stopping and frisking pedestrians as an effort to get illegal guns off the street, which police data showed disproportionately targeted black and Hispanic men. He passed a prekindergarten program that increased the number of 4-year-olds in school from 19,000 in 2013, before de Blasio took office, to about 70,000 in 2018. He also increased funding for affordable housing and championed a freeze on rent increases.
He proposed a plan this year to expand the city’s public insurance option to guarantee health coverage to all New Yorkers, including those without legal authorization to live in the country. He supports legalizing the sale of marijuana in New York City in a way that would position nonwhite communities and residents, including those with past marijuana convictions, to benefit from the new legal industry. In the 2016 presidential campaign, he delayed offering his endorsement to Clinton until October, while calling Sanders’s campaign “very helpful for this country and for the party.”
In a party that prizes diversity, de Blasio becomes the 14th white male candidate for president. But he is also the second candidate in the race in an interracial marriage, joining Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.). His wife, Chirlane McCray, a black poet and activistwho has described her sexual orientation as fluid , has long been one of his closest advisers.
“He deeply, ideologically believes that the nation is in trouble, and it is rooted in inequality of all forms — racial, income, gender, sexual orientation,” said Peter Ragone, a longtime friend and adviser. “He believes that a robust government fighting for equality is the way to fix it.”
An April poll by Quinnipiac University found that he was more popular in the city among black and Hispanic residents than whites. Sixty-six percent of black voters approved of his performance in office, compared with 40 percent of Hispanics and 31 percent of whites.
But the same poll also found significant opposition to his interest in higher office. Seventy-six percent of New York voters said he should not run for president. Forty-seven percent said such a run would be bad for the city.
Asked about the poll findings during his “Good Morning America” appearance Thursday, de Blasio said he won by large margins in both of his mayoral elections.
“New Yorkers have twice said that they want me to lead them,” he said. Referring to polling more generally, he added: “It’s not where you start. It’s where you end.”
Protesters could be heard outside the show’s studio on Times Square as host George Stephanopoulos interviewed de Blasio and his wife.
In his announcement video, de Blasio offered this observation about the residents of the city over which he presides: “The good thing about New Yorkers is they look the same whether they’re really pissed off at you or they like you.”
On Monday, de Blasio held a news conference in the public lobby of Trump Tower in Manhattan to discuss an initiative to lower the greenhouse gas emissions produced by the city’s buildings.
He was greeted by shouting protesters who held signs with messages such as “worst mayor ever.” Shortly before he began speaking, the public address system began playing music by Tony Bennett in an apparent effort to drown out his voice. Eric Trump, the president’s son and an executive with the Trump Organization, tweeted that “forcing a pop-up news conference in our lobby is simply childish.”
De Blasio responded by threatening Trump with millions in fines if he does not improve his buildings as required by new city laws.
“Trump Tower is an example of a big building owned by a rich guy that’s causing a lot of pollution, a lot of emissions,” de Blasio said during his ABC appearance.