Gary has covered de Blasio since before he was elected mayor.
It was 2013 and Long Island College Hospital in Brooklyn announced it was closing. As you might imagine this didn't set well with the employee unions. Nor many neighborhood groups. So they got together and announced a demonstration outside the hospital.
As reporters assembled outside, a tall man got out of a car. Some of the protesters applauded his arrival.
Several of my fellow reporters were perplexed. One of them asked me, "who is that guy?" "'That's the public advocate, Bill de Blasio' I responded." "That's de Blasio?" was my colleague's response. "I've never seen him before."
"What's he doing here?" the other reporter asked.
"I bet he's running for mayor." was my response.
The other reporter gave me an incredulous look.
At a subsequent demonstration protesting the hospital's closing de Blasio was arrested along with more than a dozen other people. This time, all the reporters knew who he was. He was elected later that year and re-elected four years later.
Although he enjoyed strong ratings at the beginning of his tenure, de Blasio's been dogged by several scandals. But today the focus isn't on his alleged misdeeds. Rather it's on those of his political nemesis.
De Blasio has been taking political aim on fellow Democrat Gov. Andrew Cuomo on a daily basis. Questioning whether Cuomo, faced with both a sexual harassment scandal and under attack for permitting COVID patients to be transferred into nursing homes, can continue to lead.
But now he's taken a big step further. Saying that it's time for Cuomo to step down.
The next New York mayoral election will be held in November but, because of term limits, de Blasio won't be on the ballot. He's said he won't go into the private sector after he leaves office. And recently, he hinted that he might run for governor.
He called that a longshot. But not such a longshot if Cuomo is out of the picture. And that's a possibility. The state attorney general is investigating him. The state legislature has launched an investigation that could lead to his impeachment. And, at Cuomo's request, the Albany police are investigating the sexual harassment claims made against him.
To some, it may seem that de Blasio has little chance of being elected governor. After all, he's not been the most popular mayor New York has ever seen. Last year, for example, Business Insider political editor Anthony Fisher urged de Blasio to resign.
And when he ran for the Democratic nomination for president he failed to capture much support and was forced to quit the race.
But Cuomo's popularity rating is at an all time low right now. And de Blasio, who never really has gotten along with the governor, is capitalizing on that.
His abrupt focus on state government reminds me of his seemingly sudden increased public interest in New York City community issues. Something that first caught a reporter's attention that day in Brooklyn. Just before he announced he was a candidate for mayor.
© 2021 Gary Baumgarten