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Bill de Blasio drops out of Democratic presidential contest

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio speaks during the second night of Democratic presidential debates, hosted by CNN at the Fox Theatre in Detroit, July 31. De Blasio said on Sept. 20 that he was ending his candidacy. (Erin Schaff/The New York Times)
September 20, 2019 12:52 pm

NEW YORK — Bill de Blasio, the mayor of New York City who entered the Democratic presidential race on the premise that his brand of urban progressive leadership could appeal on a national scale, said on Friday that he was ending his candidacy.

De Blasio’s announcement came as it became clear he was unlikely to qualify for the fourth Democratic debate next month, cementing the notion that he lacked the support and funds to sustain his bid.

“I feel like I’ve contributed all I can to this primary campaign, and it’s clearly not my time,” he said in an appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “I’m going to end my presidential campaign, continue my work as mayor of New York City, and I’m going to keep speaking up for working people.”

De Blasio focused his campaign on trying to improve the lives of those working people, proposing a “workers’ Bill of Rights” to guarantee Americans paid time off and medical leave, and vowing to “tax the hell” out of the wealthy to pay for it.

He tried to position himself as the most suitable Democrat to take on President Donald Trump, given his familiarity with Trump as a real estate magnate in New York. De Blasio branded the president “Con Don,” and highlighted how he had already fought the Trump administration on everything from climate change to immigration.

None of it worked.

De Blasio’s campaign was seen as a quixotic, 100-to-1 shot from its inception and it never gained traction, not even in New York. Flyers appeared at de Blasio’s gym in Park Slope, Brooklyn, urging him not to run (and to wipe the gym equipment after he finished using it).

A recent poll by Siena College of registered New York state Democrats found that less than 1% favored the mayor as the Democratic nominee.

Trump greeted the news with sarcasm, characterizing de Blasio’s withdrawal as “really big political news, perhaps the biggest story in years!”

“NYC is devastated,” Trump wrote. “He’s coming home!”

De Blasio had reported raising only $1.1 million during his first campaign finance filing, and much of that money came from the sole city union supporting him, which, like some other of de Blasio’s donors, had or could have business before the city.

Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, a city with the population of a few square blocks in Manhattan, raised twice as much money from New York City residents as de Blasio raised nationally during one fundraising period.

Even as better funded candidates such as Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York dropped out of the race, concluding that it is “important to know when it’s not your time,” de Blasio held on and argued that one viral moment on social media could boost his campaign.

“People go from unheard-of to totally famous in 72 hours in America now,” de Blasio said at a news conference in September, when he first acknowledged that an end to his candidacy was potentially in sight.

De Blasio did have social media moments, just not ones that worked in his favor. Thanks to a technical glitch, his voice sounded like he was channeling “Alvin and the Chipmunks” during an August video call to an Iowa labor conference.

Combative interviews with Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson on Fox News did not increase his standings in the polls or his ability to raise money. Protesters, upset that de Blasio had refused to fire the police officer who placed Eric Garner in a chokehold before he died, interrupted both a national debate and a CNN town hall in which the mayor participated.

“This is what democracy looks like and no one said it was pretty,” de Blasio responded on Twitter to the protesters who disrupted the second Democratic debate in July.

Even de Blasio’s successes on the campaign trail were marred by mishaps. After being praised for his performance in the first debate in Miami, de Blasio quoted Che Guevara, the Cuban revolutionary, during a union protest the next day, angering the local anti-Fidel Castro Cuban community.

New Yorkers repeatedly questioned whether de Blasio should travel from rural Iowa to the Nevada desert to address a handful of listeners about the travails of working people when there were serious problems to address in the largest city in the country such as rising homelessness and a public housing crisis.

De Blasio still has more than two years until term limits will force him out of Gracie Mansion, and “there’s a lot he can do for his legacy,” said Rebecca Katz, a former special adviser to de Blasio, citing homelessness, public housing, education and criminal justice reform.

“He has two years to communicate the good stuff he’s actually done,” Katz added. “There are other cities trying to do the things that New York has already done.”