Bill de Blasio’s road to New York’s City Hall got a little bumpy last week when his failure to win endorsements from teachers and municipal workers prompted him to boast he’d be “unburdened” should he win the Democratic mayoral nomination next month and election in November.
That made de Blasio the butt of jokes.
United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew feigned surprise that de Blasio’s felt his independence could be compromised so easily, “particularly since he was on my calendar so many times earlier this year.”
This week, the endorsement game has gone a lot more smoothly.
Tuesday, billionaire George Soros, 83, backed de Blasio saying he liked the candidate’s proposal to tax the rich to pay for universal all-day pre-Kindergarten. Then today The Nation, the 148-year-old liberal journal, backed de Blasio on the grounds that among the seven Democrats seeking the mayoral nomination, he’s most likely to address inequalities between rich and poor.
The de Blasio campaign topped it off with a television commercial featuring his 15-year-old son, Dante, and his trademark 1970s-style Afro, who claims his dad would be the “only one who will end an era of stop-and-frisk that unfairly argets people of color.” He’s referring to the controversial New York police tactic — criticized by all seven Democratic candidates — which Mayor Michael Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly say has brought crime to record lows by deterring criminals from carrying guns in public.
De Blasio, 52, alone among the seven in the field, has incorporated his family in his campaign story, ever since announcing his candidacy in January, and why not?
Taken together, they embody a rainbow coalition. His and his wife, Chirlane McCray, an African-American, have been discussing her past as a black lesbian activist, as she identified herself in a 1979 Essence Magazine article that appeared about 12 years before she and de Blasio met in City Hall working for former Mayor David Dinkins.
Demonstrating gay-friendliness, de Blasio might take some votes away from City Council Christine Quinn, who is married to a woman and seeking to become the first openly gay mayor of the most populous U.S. city.
Since his campaign’s first day, de Blasio has been promoting his candidacy emphasizing that both his children, Dante and his daughter, Chiara, 18, were educated in city public schools, in contrast to Bloomberg, the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP, whose daughters attended Spence, a Manhattan private school.
The couple and their children live in a brownstone in Park Slope, a gentrified section of Brooklyn that de Blasio hopes will give him credibility with voters who reside outside Manhattan.
“Bill de Blasio will be a mayor for every New Yorker, no matter where they live or what they look like,” Dante de Blasio says in the ad, over soft piano chords and violins, while pictures of the family smiling and laughing fill the screen.
“And I’d say that even if he weren’t my dad.”
Politicians using their family to sell their candidacy are not new. Florida Gov. Rick Scott showcased his mother, Esther, sin a 2011 campaign video. She portrayed his son as a Horatio Alger type who was raised in public housing, saying “he’s a good boy.”
Yet it’s rare to see a teenage son in a political commercial, and it’s not as easy to recruit a teenage son to back a candidacy as one might assume.
When former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani ran a losing bid for the Republican nomination for president in 2008, his son Andrew would have no part of it. He and his sister didn’t appear on the candidate’s Web-site, although their stepmother, Judith Giuliani, did. Both children are from Giuliani’s marriage to Donna Hanover, from whom Giuliani separated in a widely publicized split while he was mayor.
“I am going to be focused on my golf,” Giuliani’s son told the New York Times in March 2008. “So, I’m not going to have time to, even if I wanted to, be in the campaign.”