With So Many Friends Running, Clintons Staying Out

NEW YORK -

One New York City mayoral candidate was Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager during her Senate race. Another is known to lend Bill Clinton his private jet from time to time. A third is married to the former first lady’s chief of staff.

The pressure for the former Democratic president at the height of his popularity to weigh in on a primary in which he says five family friends are vying is immense, aides say. But the Clintons made it clear that they are staying out.

“We are a hundred miles from that race,” Bill Clinton told CNN from his visit to Kigali, Rwanda Tuesday, “and everyone understands that we’re not going to be involved as long as our personal friends and people to whom we feel obligations are involved.”

Mrs. Clinton’s close aide Huma Abedin is married to one of the contenders, former Rep. Anthony Weiner. Bill de Blasio, the city’s public advocate, led Clinton’s successful 2000 Senate campaign. And the couple is even friends with one of the Republicans in the field, John Catsimatidis, a billionaire businessman who has been known to lend the former president his private jet from time to time.

“Neither Hillary or I was ever involved in the political campaign, and they understood that from the beginning,” Bill Clinton said. “There are too many people running for mayor who have been my supporters, who supported her for senator, her for president.”

Gov. Andrew Cuomo is in the same, if lower profile, predicament. While he has a strained relationship with current Mayor Michael Bloomberg, he is said to be on good terms with many of those contending to replace the mayor.

Catsimatidis lent the governor his jet this spring so he could fly to Binghamton, N.Y., for a wedding, de Blasio was a deputy to Cuomo when he served as Housing and Urban Affairs secretary during the Clinton administration, Bill Thompson was a chairman of his gubernatorial campaign, and Joseph Lhota served as chairman of the MTA, a state agency.

Christine Quinn often praises the governor, and Catsimatidis never fails to note as a point of pride that Cuomo wears limited-edition ties that he designs and gives annually to his friends.

But Cuomo’s closest friendship is with a candidate from an opposing party and one considered a longshot.

George McDonald, a Republican who is an advocate for the homeless, worked together with Cuomo on the 1984 presidential campaign of Walter Mondale, and later supported his political ambitions with significant financial donations.

But Cuomo, like the Clintons, said he is not getting involved in the race.