To the surprise of very few who have actually been paying attention to the New York City Mayoral race, former Representative and City Councilman Anthony Weiner has thrown his hat into the ring for the contested position of Democratic Candidate. There are currently a few other well-credentialed local politicians in steady battle for the position: John Liu: City Comptroller and Former City Councilman, Christine Quinn: City Council Speaker, Bill Thompson: Former Comptroller and Former Member of the Board of Education, and Bill De Blasio: Public Advocate. Everyone on the list has held a position that makes them quite qualified politically to join the race, and even win it (depending on how your politics sway you), however in personal conversations I have said for some time that Weiner is essentially a shoe-in for the job.
Now, some of you may think that I’m jumping the gun a little bit on this one because of his fairly recent, and widely publicized scandal via Twitter but allow me to explain not only how that won’t hurt him, but will probably work to his favor more than he’s willing to admit (but certainly must know). You see, many of the electorate don’t necessarily follow all the issues as intently as they might. This is certainly true for lower elected positions, and non-marriage equality based propositions—in the case of Executive positions the rule tends to slip at least a little. Most times, however, there is an incumbent to beat and in this particular case twelve years have gone by, and twenty under Republican administrations (though Bloomberg is about as Republican as a formica is oak), with no standard bearer or prominent successor in place—at least not for the party. Bloomberg’s heir apparent is, in fact, the Democrat Speaker Quinn whose time has both come and gone. Any hope she once held at being the Mayor was shattered by her close relationship with Hizzoner, and she lost her hold of the zeitgeist. The amount of boos she has been absorbing at debates should illustrate that more than any pungent sentence I could muster might.
Then there’s Bill Thompson. Bill Thompson is a great choice for Mayor—New York City born and bred, former Comptroller, former Board of Education President, son of a teacher and judge. In fact, in my opinion he beat Bloomberg in the last election. The margin was amazing close in that race, and when you consider that it was a 46%/50% split against a billionaire incumbent, I think it’s fair to say Bill Thompson would have landslided against anyone else. Unfortunately, the mind of most of the voting people don’t recall the losers of these elections. Who’s Mark Green, anyway? Fernando Ferrer? And for that matter who is Bill Thompson? No, Thompson doesn’t have it…though in reality he is probably the best choice.
Then there’s Thompsons successor in the Comptroller’s Office, Mr. John Liu. John Liu, by all accounts has the immigrant’s Cinderella story. He immigrated here from Taiwan at five, his father renamed himself and his brothers after the Kennedys, he made the best of it and got an education, became the first Asian American on the City Council, and likewise for Comptroller. Additionally, he spoke at my College Graduation—so he’s got that going for him too. Mr. Liu unfortunately has two factors working against him. One is an inconclusive controversy regarding his campaign funds management that has led to several resignations and arrests within his campaign staff—but nothing directly damaging or implicating Mr. Liu’s involvement. Financial scandal is probably the worst kind to be associated with a Comptroller, however the second item working against Mr. Liu diffuses the first some, but is fairly devastating otherwise. Many people are unaware of this development because they don’t know who or what a Comptroller is, which gives John Liu something of an invisible candidate. The only other person suffering from this particular public image ailment is Public Advocate De Blasio. If people don’t know what a Comptroller is, they certainly don’t think often about the publicly elected official that is elected to act as an intermediary between the…elected officials…and the people who elect them. It’s a strange role. Voters certainly know Liu and De Blasio’s names…but they don’t know why. That is an issue when you are running for the office that everyone blames everything on.
This brings us back to Mr. Weiner. Anthony Weiner has oodles of name recognition, and as they say all press is good press. With Weiner in the race, the media circus that follows him will now enter the fray of the otherwise low-key mayoral competition. Weiner needn’t do much to win the election, provided he can secure the primary vote. Primary voters are more likely to have a keen sense of the candidates, but heightened only a degree or two from that of the common man. Life is much too hectic to be involved with politics outside of scandals and campaign seasons. If Weiner can manage to deflect commentary about his indecent internet exposure enough to get a few decent words in he has a more than fair chance to steal the primary and the election on name recognition and unbalanced media coverage alone.
Those few choice remarks should play well in New York City as Weiner had a previously stellar relationship with his constituents and has a number of well-established positions. He is pro-choice, pro-socialized health care, and pro-Israel. He has also raised concerns about jobs, public education, and housing. These will suit him well in this election. And he is positioned well to enamor himself to the electorate. His wife did not divorce him following the scandal and through her he has a connection with Hillary Clinton, which if exploitable, would give him an excellent boost as well (and draw an interesting conversation out about the redemption of Bill Clinton)—but it isn’t necessary. As I said, all he needs to do is not slip on any banana peels and his name recognition and the media’s perservation will do all the campaign work for him. Not to mention the fact that his Twitter and Facebook feeds will probably give him a huge audience that the other candidates won’t have…just because people are going to hope for him to slip again.
Weiner is smart, and while he may not be the absolute best candidate for the job (as I said, that distinction belongs to Mr. Thompson), he is nonetheless a good option and far better than some of the other candidates on either side of the aisle. Additionally, he has some upper class backing as he has raised more money than any other candidate (except Speaker Quinn, heir apparent). What I predict is that he will steal this election, and for the most part it will be due to very little work—or rather a lot of work on the part of others—to make it a successful caper.