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Bill de Blasio: New York City mayor enters presidential race

Bill de Blasio: New York City mayor enters presidential race

  • 16 May 2019

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  • US election 2020
New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, seen here with his wife Chirlane McCray and their children Chiara (far left) and DanteImage copyright Getty Images
Image caption Bill de Blasio – seen here with his wife Chirlane McCray and their children Chiara (far left) and Dante – is the 24th Democrat to announce a presidential bid

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced his run for the presidency, the latest Democrat to enter the race.

In a video released on Thursday, Mr de Blasio said it was "time we put working people first" and that President Donald Trump "must be stopped".

"I'm a New Yorker, I've known Trump's a bully for a long time," he added. "I know how to take him on."

He is expected to visit Iowa and South Carolina to begin campaigning this weekend.

Mr de Blasio is the 24th person to run for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020 – a field that includes one other serving mayor and five former mayors.

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The 58-year-old progressive – who previously served as a senior figure on the city's council – won a landslide victory in 2013 to become New York's first Democratic mayor since 1993.

Mr de Blasio has implemented a programme of free universal pre-school and made police wear body cameras in the most populous city in the US.

In 2017 he was re-elected in another landslide, winning more than 66% of the vote against his Republican challenger.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mr de Blasio was elected by a landslide in 2013, securing more than 73% of the vote

But rumours that he would announce a run for the presidency have failed to energise the city.

An April Quinnipiac poll said 76% of New Yorkers did not want him to stand.

"Every listed party, gender, racial, borough and age group agrees that the mayor should not hit the campaign trail," the pollster reported.

His campaign was rocky even at pre-launch stage. His press secretary resigned, as did a communications aide to the mayor's political action committee (PAC).

News of Mr de Blasio's planned Iowa campaign event on Friday was first reported on Twitter by a high school journalist, who took a screenshot of a since-deleted Facebook event page that misspelt his name "di Blasio".

As he sat on Thursday for a morning talk show interview with his wife, Chirlane McCray, protesters chanted "liar" outside the ABC News studios in Manhattan.

"A little serenade," he laughed, during the live interview with Good Morning America.

It is not clear what provoked the protest, but in 2016 Mr de Blasio was fined nearly $48,000 (£37,500) by the New York City Campaign Finance Board for spending violations in his first mayoral race.

Skip Twitter post by @Zohreen

Protesters chant “liar” through GMA’s window as @BilldeBlasio kicks of his announcement on the show

— Zohreen (@Zohreen) May 16, 2019


End of Twitter post by @Zohreen

Earlier this month, the New York Times editorial board warned that a de Blasio candidacy would raise ethical questions about political donations he continues to receive.

In April he hosted a fundraiser for a construction company seeking to do business in New York, the paper noted, adding that a restaurateur has previously plead guilty to bribing him.

New York voters have also been critical of his campaign pledge to tackle wealth inequality, arguing that the gap appears to be worsening in some parts of the city.

Mr de Blasio has regularly criticised Mr Trump on immigration, policing and climate change.

Skip Twitter post by @realDonaldTrump

The Dems are getting another beauty to join their group. Bill de Blasio of NYC, considered the worst mayor in the U.S., will supposedly be making an announcement for president today. He is a JOKE, but if you like high taxes & crime, he’s your man. NYC HATES HIM!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) May 16, 2019


End of Twitter post by @realDonaldTrump

He held an event at the base of Trump Tower in May calling on all the president's businesses to cut their emissions in line with New York's Green New Deal legislation – a package of environmental laws.

"You're on notice, Donald: we won't let you mortgage our future for your real estate," the mayor later tweeted.

Long odds for a scrappy underdog

Bill de Blasio's pitch to Democratic primary voters is simple. He's the guy who has been enacting the progressive policies other candidates only talk about – and in the biggest city in the US.

The challenge for the mayor is that not all of those policies have worked. Others haven't progressed off the drawing board. The city's skyrocketing income inequality, public-transportation woes and affordable-housing shortage are still pressing problems despite his six years in office.

Then there's the fact that being mayor of New York is a coveted job, but it creates passionate and vocal enemies. Those critics were prominently displayed on the pages of the New York Post and in the background of recent de Blasio public appearances.

The mayor must hope that, outside of the crucible of the Big Apple, voters in Iowa, New Hampshire and elsewhere will take a fresh look at his record and qualities as a candidate. He's a fighter who won't be afraid to mix it up with Donald Trump or his Democratic opponents. He is underrated on the stump. And he appears to thrive as an underdog.

That's a good thing for the mayor, since the odds are heavily stacked against him.

This prompted a Twitter battle with President Trump's son, Eric, who called the rally "simply childish". The president retweeted some of his son's attacks.

Mr de Blasio has officially changed his name twice in the past.

Born Warren Wilhelm Jr, he changed it in 1983 to Warren de Blasio-Wilhelm, court records show.

Then in 2001, he petitioned a Brooklyn judge to change it to Bill de Blasio, saying he was taking his mother's maiden name because his father had been largely absent from his childhood and he identified with her Italian heritage.

On Groundhog Day in 2014, he dropped one of the furry rodents belonging to the Staten Island Zoo during a ceremony to determine how many days of winter remained.

Chuck, as the creature was named, died days later from "acute internal injuries", the zoo said.

"Mayor de Blasio has groundhog blood on his hands!" was the New York Post headline.

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