New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio launched a long-shot bid for the presidency on Thursday, becoming the latest Democrat to join a crowded primary field.
De Blasio announced his run with a video released by his campaign.
“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 said at the beginning of the video. “I’m running for president because it’s time we put working people first.”
In announcing his candidacy, De Blasio seeks to claim a role on the national stage that has eluded him as mayor of the biggest American city.
When he took office in 2014, de Blasio seemed briefly poised to become a leading voice for an emerging left wing of the Democratic Party. However, liberal enthusiasm faded over his first term, partly because of political missteps at home and the emergence of bigger names elsewhere. He could face obstacles trying to distinguish himself in a crowded field.
De Blasio, 58, has drawn small audiences so far in visits to early primary states including Iowa, South Carolina, Nevada, and New Hampshire, where an audience of six showed up for a mental health discussion.
A recent Quinnipiac University poll found 76% of New York City voters say they believe he shouldn’t run.
De Blasio’s hometown press has, so far, delighted in disparaging his presidential hopes.
“De Blasio for President? ‘Nah,’” read one recent New York Times headline summing up the city’s reaction to his possible candidacy.
“Who hasn’t told Bill de Blasio that he shouldn’t run for president?” asked New York Magazine.
Not to be outdone, the New York Post front page cover features the headline “De Blasio Runs for President” encircled by laughing television watchers.
Today's cover: Bill de Blasio officially launches 2020 presidential campaign pic.twitter.com/g973kWfGJ3
— New York Post (@nypost) May 16, 2019
De Blasio, though, has remained undaunted by the obstacles and said he believes he has a message that can resonate with the American public.
Political observers said that even if de Blasio’s candidacy doesn’t catch fire, he’ll be able to promote his policies and potentially angle for a job in a future Democrat administration. He is barred by term limits from running for mayor again. Matthew Dallek, an associate professor of political management at George Washington University, said a losing White House campaign wouldn’t come without risks. “If his legacy is that a crisis happened and he was off campaigning in Iowa, that’s significant,” Dallek said. “So yeah, there are risks.”
While De Blasio is unpopular in the Big Apple, his progressive record may help him amid a crowded Democrat primary field.
“Because he has such a present press corps in a tabloid city, we’ve seen him up close and in an aggressive and unflattering light, but if you look at his actual record of achievement, it’s quite lengthy,” Rebecca Katz, a Democrat strategist, told NBC News. “Yes, there’s an argument to be made about whether he should be running for president or not, but he is certainly qualified.”
De Blasio was born Warren Wilhelm Jr. in 1961 but took his mother’s family name in adulthood because, he said, his father was “largely absent from his life.” The mayor has spoken about how his father, Warren Wilhelm, a veteran who lost part of his left leg in World War II, descended into alcoholism and killed himself when de Blasio was 18.
Born in New York City, de Blasio grew up in the Boston area and has provoked New York sports fans by rooting ardently for the Boston Red Sox. He graduated from New York University and earned a master’s degree from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.
De Blasio met his wife, Chirlane McCray, when they both worked for Democratic Mayor David Dinkins. They married in 1994 and have two children, Chiara and Dante.
De Blasio was elected to a local school board in his Brooklyn neighborhood in 1999 and won a City Council seat in 2001. In 2009, he was elected to the citywide position of public advocate, a job that holds little real power but comes with a bully pulpit that allowed de Blasio to build a reputation as a champion of regular citizens in a city built for the powerful.
He was not initially favored to win the 2013 race for the Democratic nomination for mayor but was helped by the implosion of rival Anthony Weiner’s campaign after the disgraced former congressman was accused in a new sexting scandal.
De Blasio defeated Republican Joe Lhota by a wide margin in the 2013 general election for mayor. He won reelection in 2017, defeating Republican state Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis by 39 percentage points.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.