New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio just can’t shake the bad news. First, de Blasio faced a series of investigations into his fundraising operation. Then, he heard the news that none other than Hillary Clinton was considering a run for New York City mayor in 2017. Finally, de Blasio realized he had been out-fundraised by Paul Massey, his likely future Republican opponent. Together, these problems give de Blasio a tough road to re-election in 2017.
Over the course of its history, New York City has seen its fair share of mayors under investigation—de Blasio’s Democratic predecessors once ran Tammany Hall, after all. However, as noted by the New York Times, historians are “hard-pressed to find a mayor who, along with his administration and inner circle, was ever the subject of as many simultaneous investigations” as de Blasio. He is currently being investigated by at least six different agencies, ranging from the local to federal levels, as part of five different inquiries that are looking at four possible violations of criminal law. In a common thread in all of these investigations, de Blasio and groups associated with him, such as the Campaign for One New York (which has since been shut down), have received money mainly from unions and developers, many of which have interests that are directly affected by his policies.
De Blasio’s relationship with the animal rights group NYCLASS, one of the few organizations that supported his efforts to all but eliminate New York City’s famed horse carriages from the roads, is a prime example of shady fundraising. Two close associates of de Blasio, including his cousin, donated large sums of money to NYCLASS. The animal rights advocates then donated the exact same amount of money to New York City Is Not for Sale, a group that ran ads attacking Christine Quinn, one of de Blasio’s main primary rivals. De Blasio soon faced an FBI investigation to determine whether these donations were made in order to skirt campaign finance laws that would have required the donors to disclose themselves before the primary election. Ultimately, de Blasio’s attempt to ban horse carriages was “mocked, resented, and [is] now dead,” with none other than actor Liam Neeson taking center stage to defend Central Park’s horse carriages. The NYCLASS investigation is just one of many that will dog de Blasio through 2017 and beyond, as he will likely face continuing scrutiny over his fundraising past.
Clinton for Mayor?
In the aftermath of her presidential election loss to Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton has been spotted wandering in the forest and shopping for groceries. But she has clearly also spent some of that time deliberating whether she should challenge de Blasio—her campaign manager in her 2000 Senate race—in the Democratic mayoral primary. Clinton very likely has no desire to run for mayor—and the mere thought of her candidacy made CNN’s John King sigh heavily on air. However, her unwillingness to swat this rumor away suggests she is seriously disappointed in de Blasio, who endorsed Clinton so late in the primary campaign that it was met with “little fanfare from [her] campaign.” Clinton crushed Trump in New York City, and although Trump was able to flip much of upstate New York, he still became the first winning presidential candidate to lose his home state since 1916. Confidants of Clinton’s believe that she is unlikely to run for office ever again, but recent polling shows de Blasio’s approval ratings are underwater. Moreover, Clinton is projected to beat him 49-30 in a head-to-head matchup in which she runs as an independent. Even if Clinton does not run, de Blasio is still polling under the 40 percent threshold he would need to surmount in order to win a primary outright. Forty-nine percent of New Yorkers simply believe that he does not deserve a second term.
Outraised by Republican Opponent:
Not only does de Blasio face problems from investigations into campaign donations, but he also faces a different type of fundraising threat: he was actually outraised by his likely Republican challenger, Paul Massey. Although de Blasio’s campaign staff defend their lackluster fundraising by highlighting the multitude of small donations they received, they likely felt pressured to avoid soliciting larger contributions precisely because of the investigations their candidate is facing over larger contributions! While de Blasio nevertheless brought in over $1 million in the past six months, Massey raised $1.6 million. Massey will certainly need far more than that to remain competitive, but he is also willing to self-fund his campaign, which will help him potentially increase his monetary advantage over de Blasio even further down the road with the election under ten months away.
Bill de Blasio is in deeper trouble than any incumbent Democratic mayor of New York City should face—deeper trouble than anyone could have imagined when he first took office. And almost all of his problems are his own making. Ultimately, de Blasio’s blues may turn the New York City mayoral race red, and he will have no one to blame but himself.
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