Perhaps Mayor Bill de Blasio’s decision to campaign against state Senate Republicans last year wasn’t such a great idea.
Seven months after his effort to prevent a Republican takeover failed, the legislature in June dealt two key defeats to the Democrat. A deal between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and lawmakers didn’t give de Blasio the repeal he sought of a rule that allows some rent-regulated apartments to be leased at market rates, a blow to his affordable-housing plans. He asked for permanent mayoral control of schools; Cuomo and the legislature gave him one year.
The mayor had also sought an increase to the minimum wage and college funding for undocumented immigrants. Both barely got a mention in the deal, which includes a $1.3 billion tax rebate for homeowners in primarily Republican districts outside the city.
“De Blasio made a political blunder in trying to influence the upstate Senate elections,” state Republican Chairman Ed Cox said. “He failed because upstate voters don’t like being told who to vote for by the mayor of New York City.”
As a result of de Blasio’s “meddling,” Cox said, two Republicans won key races in the Hudson Valley, a battleground region.
When de Blasio targeted the Republicans’ narrow hold on the Senate, he said it was the best way to advance his self-described progressive agenda. He raised more than $1 million and allocated staff for Democratic candidates. He also brokered a deal in May 2014 that gave Cuomo the support of the union-backed Working Families Party, with Cuomo promising to help lead a Democratic takeover.
Instead, Republicans gained an outright majority in the Senate for the first time since 2010. Immediately upon retaking the chamber, then-Majority Leader Dean Skelos said de Blasio’s campaigning provided his party with a boost and that it wouldn’t be quickly forgotten.
In May, Skelos was replaced by John Flanagan, who also represents parts of Long Island. Just weeks before he became the state’s highest-ranking Republican, Flanagan said de Blasio had made a tactical error.
“I would recommend to the mayor that that was not the most prudent course of action,” Flanagan said in a radio interview.
Asked at a news briefing Wednesday whether campaigning against Republican Senate candidates was a mistake, the mayor said no.
“As I’ve said many times all over this country, it’s normal for a member of a political party to support members of their political party,” de Blasio said.
The one-year extension for control of the schools was where the backlash was most evident, said George Arzt, who served as a spokesman for former Mayor Ed Koch. De Blasio’s predecessor, Michael Bloomberg, won a seven-year renewal from Senate Republicans after the billionaire directed millions to their campaign coffers.
Republicans disagree with de Blasio over his opposition to charter schools and say he is beholden to the teachers union.
“The fact that they only gave him one year demonstrates that they remember what happened,” Arzt said. “Once you’re in office, you have to make alliances that are going to ensure you’re getting the help that you need to run the city.”