Race to City Hall 2013

Running on Tax Hikes, de Blasio Pursues it Immediately

Democratic mayoral nominee Bill de Blasio urged a key political ally on Monday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo, to throw his support behind the candidate’s plan to raise taxes on wealthy New Yorkers.

De Blasio has made the tax hike, which would fund universal pre-kindergarten, the centerpiece of his campaign. He said that if he is elected in November he wants the increase in the state’s next budget which is due in April.

The plan needs the support of the state Legislature and there is skepticism that Cuomo and Albany lawmakers would support a tax hike just months before they come up for re-election.

“My conversations with Gov. Cuomo have been very broad,” de Blasio said at a news conference at an East Harlem early education program. “He’s expressed an openness to this specific proposal. And I think there is going to be a lot of public support and that is
going to make a huge difference.”

De Blasio was dismissive of the idea that he should consider delaying the tax hike.

“This is a major, major priority,” said de Blasio, the city’s public advocate. “We’re going to work on it immediately. It’s not that I don’t understand there’s a lot of work to do but my goal is get this approved as part of the budget.”

Cuomo, who has endorsed de Blasio, said two weeks ago that he would not weigh in on the plan until he knew its specifics. His spokesman said Monday that position still stood.

De Blasio’s Republican rival, Joe Lhota, has predicted that the plan will never be approved. Lhota has said he’d raise the estimated $500 million needed to launch the program by instead making cuts to the city budget.

De Blasio also revealed a previously private personal detail Monday, that his father took his life in 1979 when the candidate was a teenager. De Blasio’s campaign said that his father had terminal cancer at the time.

“While this has been a private part of my family’s life, it is now clear a media story will soon emerge,” the campaign said.

In Profile, Lhota Mixes Goldwater and Reaganomics

In a New York Times profile of Republican Joe Lhota, the former Giuliani administration official mentioned an anecdote from his college days to illustrate how he would govern New York City.

As an undergraduate in Georgetown University, he used the high cost of beer and pizza at the campus pub to get elected to the student senate.

He understands that it is quite a task to persuade an overwhelmingly Democratic electorate to pick a leader who cites Barry Goldwater and Margaret Thatcher as his intellectual forebears. But the man with an aversion to a deep government imprint on society — he once called himself a libertarian — is convinced that even liberals want to have government work better.

“Government should steer, not row,” he said. “Government is to point you in the right direction, and not to do everything for you. I was born a limited-government person. I’ve always had this streak going through me.”

Going to a Washington, D.C., area college during the turbulent Watergate and Vietnam eras, Lhota says, he eschewed protests in favor of nights in the Senate gallery listening to then-Republican Leader Goldwater, considered the father of the modern conservative movement, orate on the floor. He was a fan of supply-side economics long before the term “Reaganomics” was coined, and through the influence of a Soviet émigré professor, developed a revulsion to Marxism.

But Lhota’s conservatism does not extend to social issues, and he is quick to distance himself from the national Republican Party.

“Joe is a unique political creature in a city that tends to be more black and white,” said Elliot Sander, a Georgetown classmate.

Questioned About Cuba Vacation, de Blasio Demurs

Bill de Blasio was questioned by a Cuban American radio station who was appalled the candidate vacationed with his wife in Cuba in 1991.

“What did you see in Cuba, what is your impression going on honeymoon in a country that hasn’t had free elections in the last 50 years. What did you get from the trip?” the radio host asked. “If I can ask you one thing you came back from Cuba with, what was that thing?”

“I didn’t go on a trip to fully study the country, I don’t pretend to have full perspective on the country,” de Blasio responded. “I have a huge critique of the current government there because it’s undemocratic. I also think it’s well known that there’s been some good things that happened in that government. For example, with healthcare. It’s a mix.”

The radio host pressed him on the healthcare comparison.

“I just had to send my aunt in Cuba some, you know, the thread to have stitches, because they don’t have in Cuba the thread,” the radio host said. “But that’s your opinion about healthcare situation in Cuba. I hear otherwise.”

In Profile, De Blasio was Into Social Justice Since Teen Years

In a Boston Globe profile of the Democratic candidate for mayor, Bill de Blasio, who grew up in Boston, is seen as a mentor for fellow students.

Students at Cambridge Rindge and Latin School knew they could turn to de Blasio for help in grammar. The 6-foot-5 senior arranged with administrators to introduce a new class called Better Than Basics.

“You went to Bill to get it done,” said Nora Burns, a fellow member of the class of 1979.

Friends and teachers from that era say that his talk of a “tale of two New Yorks” is a takeoff from his rhetoric as a teenager concerned with social justice.

“When I hear some of the positions he’s taking around equity, I say, ‘Yup. That’s the Bill de Blasio I know,’ because he was always thinking about issues of social justice,” said Rob Riordan, who was de Blasio’s teacher in high school.That caused de Blasio no small amount of teasing. Students hummed “Hail to the Chief” when he walked into class and he was nicknamed “Senator Provolone,” in a nod to his Italian lunches and “overweening investment in political life,” said Gerry Speca, de Blasio’s drama teacher. In the high school yearbook, he was labeled “future president of the U.S.A. — the Untied Sneakers Association.”

In a Globe interview at the age of 17, de Blasio, then the “students’ rights advocate,” said that he channeled his frustrations with the political world into his school, where he helped rewrite the sixth- and seventh-grade disciplinary codes to ensure students were granted hearings before the student council if they had problems.

“I feel that many students aren’t getting a people-oriented education,” he said then. “I’ve felt that school systems discriminate against students, and the way to do something about it is to work through people to change the system.”

Born in New York, de Blasio moved to Cambridge in 1966, when he was 5.

Former Rep. Turner Fails at Political Comeback Attempt

Former Rep. Bob Turner electrified the national Republican party at his surprise victory in his Democratic majority district race in 2011. But an attempt to return to the political arena after

he was redistricted out of office failed Friday when he lost the race for the chairmanship of the Queens Republican Party.

Chairman Phil Ragusa kept his post, Politicker reported, with a tumultuous session ending with his capturing 52 percent of ballots, which are cast by district leaders and state committeemen. Turner, who was supported by Councilman Eric Ulrich, received 48 percent.

The Queens GOP was engulfed in scandal earlier this year, with the vice chairman arrested for accepting a bribe to install a Democrat on the GOP ballot for mayor. But Ragusa’s faction was able to keep him in power.

Dems Gather to Show Support for Ken Thompson’s DA Bid

Democratic officials gathered Monday on the steps of Brooklyn Borough Hall in a demonstration of unity for Ken Thompson.

Bill de Blasio, the Democratic mayoral candidate, said the party “is united” behind Thompson.

“Ken understands that a progressive, smart-on-crime approach to public safety means rooting out crime wherever it exists without compromising our civil rights,” he said.

“We are united in bringing a new vision to our criminal justice system,” he said. “Whether you are a Democrat, Republican or independent, I will fight every day to keep our streets safe and our communities whole.”