Mayoral Race Shapes Up

Here is a look at the mayoral race, as sent to our subscribers this afternoon.  (You can join our subscriber list on the right side of this page.)

Mayoral Race Shapes Up

The race for mayor has shaped up, but it certainly has not heated up.  With election day exactly three weeks from today, the race has settled into a lopsided contest with Bill de Blasio leading Joe Lhota by 40 to 50 points in public opinion polls.  As de Blasio and Lhota meet tonight in their first televised debate, Lhota desperately needs to shake up the race.   

Although the consistently lopsided polls paint the race as finished and predictable, a close watching of what the candidates are saying reveals many unexpected moments.  For example – which candidate said this? 

“What we need to do to deal with income inequality, which we have in this city, is talking about what programs we’re going to have to be able to deal with the income inequality, how we’re going to make New York affordable, how we’re going to make affordable housing more plentiful in the City of New York.”  It was Republican Joe Lhota.   

As Lhota struggles for attention and traction he has, as in the example I just noted, often taken positions seemingly contrary to what’s expected of a Republican candidate.  Among them are his support for municipal ID cards and drivers licenses for undocumented immigrants, his vehement denunciation of the Tea Party and the federal government shutdown, his very public and friendly visits to the Rev. Al Sharpton and his defense of  “environmental activism”.  

The public has not, so far, seemed interested in what Lhota offers – a serious, accomplished government manager who understands and can control fiscal challenges.  To the general voter, he’s a stern two dimensional figure without either the name recognition or public personality of his opponent.  With the election clock ticking loudly, Lhota’s last hope is that tonight’s debate provides him with an identity moment, a way for the public to grasp what he’s about and why they should like him.  Whether based on his policies or on a personal element, Lhota needs to dramatically enrich his public identity tonight.

Bill de Blasio joined in the upside down nature of the race by recently declaring himself a “fiscal conservative”.  That seemed a bit too strong even for him, and when I asked de Blasio about it the next day, he amended his description to a more fathomable “fiscally responsible progressive.”  The race is his to lose, and he’s mostly playing that way.  With the polls showing him so dramatically ahead, the one real positive he can gain tonight is in developing the notion that he is a “fiscally responsible progressive”, reassuring voters that he understands and is capable of managing the major fiscal challenges facing our city.  Doing so will likely squelch any glimmer of hope for Lhota and begin a public move toward addressing the challenges de Blasio will face upon taking office.

One final note:  As the polls and pundits predict his electoral demise, Joe Lhota may seek reassurance in the June words of a sinking mayoral candidate, as the race seemed to be moving inexorably away from him.

We’ve been covering Lhota and de Blasio throughout the primary and general election campaigns, and you can see our full portfolio of Lhota coverage here, and our full portfolio of de Blasio coverage here.  Be sure to visit us regularly at and follow me on Twitter (@jjk607) for more as we move into the final weeks of the campaign. 

For insight into New York’s biggest issues, what counts is not just being true, but being New York True.

John Kenny