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Mayor of New York enters fray for Democratic nomination for White House

Bill de Blasio is among two dozen candidates vying to win the right to duel with President Donald Trump in 2020.

Mayor of New York Bill de Blasio takes part in the St Patrick’s Day parade in New York (Niall Carson/PA)
Mayor of New York Bill de Blasio takes part in the St Patrick’s Day parade in New York (Niall Carson/PA)

New York City mayor Bill de Blasio has announced he will seek the Democratic nomination for president, adding his name to an already long list of candidates itching for a chance to take on Donald Trump.

The mayor announced his run with a video released by his campaign.

“There’s plenty of money in this world. There’s plenty of money in this country. It’s just in the wrong hands,” Mr de Blasio says at the beginning of the video.

He concludes: “I’m running for president because it’s time we put working people first.”

In announcing his candidacy, Mr de Blasio seeks to claim a role on the national stage that has eluded him as mayor of the biggest US city.

When he took office in 2014, Mr de Blasio seemed briefly poised to become a leading voice for an emerging left wing of the Democratic Party.

But liberal enthusiasm faded over his first term, partly because of political missteps at home and the emergence of bigger names elsewhere.

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Bill de Blasio addresses the Labour Party conference in 2014 (Stefan Rouseau/PA)

Mr Trump, himself a New Yorker, quickly reacted to the announcement with a trademark tweet, mocking the mayor.

The president tweeted: “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!”

The mayor could face obstacles trying to distinguish himself in a crowded field.

Mr de Blasio, 58, has drawn small audiences so far in visits to early primary states including Iowa, South Carolina, Nevada and New Hampshire, where an audience of six showed up for a mental health discussion.

A recent Quinnipiac University poll found 76% of New York City voters say they believe he should not run.

Mr de Blasio’s hometown press has, so far, delighted in disparaging his presidential hopes.

De Blasio For President? Nah, read one recent New York Times headline summing up the city’s reaction to his possible candidacy.

Who Hasn’t Told Bill De Blasio That He Shouldn’t Run For President?, asked New York Magazine.

Mr de Blasio, though, has remained undaunted by the obstacles and said he believes he has a message that can resonate with the American public.

Political observers said that even if Mr de Blasio’s candidacy does not catch fire, he will be able to promote his policies and potentially angle for a job in a future Democratic administration.

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The White House, Washington DC (Andrew Parsons/PA)

He is barred by term limits from running for mayor again.

On the campaign trail, Mr de Blasio will be able to cite accomplishments like expanding full-day prekindergarten and curtailing police tactics that critics said were discriminatory, while presiding over continued drops in violent crime.

His central message remains fighting income inequality.

Mr de Blasio was born Warren Wilhelm Jr in 1961 but took his mother’s family name in adulthood because, he said, his father was “largely absent from his life”.

The mayor has spoken about how his father, Warren Wilhelm, a veteran who lost part of his left leg in the Second World War, descended into alcoholism and killed himself when de Blasio was 18.

Born in New York City, Mr de Blasio grew up in the Boston area and has provoked New York sports fans by rooting ardently for the Boston Red Sox.

He graduated from New York University and earned a master’s degree from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.

Mr de Blasio met his wife, Chirlane McCray, when they both worked for Democratic mayor David Dinkins.

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Mayor Bill de Blasio (Seth Wenig/AP)

They married in 1994 and have two children, Chiara and Dante.

Mr de Blasio was elected to a local school board in his Brooklyn neighbourhood in 1999 and won a City Council seat in 2001.

In 2009, he was elected to the citywide position of public advocate, a job that holds little real power but allowed Mr de Blasio to build a reputation as a champion of regular citizens in a city built for the powerful.

He was not initially favoured to win the 2013 race for the Democratic nomination for mayor but was helped by the implosion of rival Anthony Weiner’s campaign after the disgraced former congressman was accused in a new sexting scandal.

Mr de Blasio defeated Republican Joe Lhota by a wide margin in the 2013 general election for mayor.

He won reelection in 2017, defeating Republican state assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis by 39 percentage points.

With his candidacy, Mr de Blasio becomes the latest in a line of New York City mayors who have run for president.

None has ever won.

John Lindsay sought the office in 1972 while Rudy Giuliani ran in 2008.

Michael Bloomberg flirted with a run for years before ruling it out in both the 2016 and 2020 campaigns.

PA

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