Maybe it was Mayor Bill de Blasio’s rough week at the Democratic National Convention, when he was relegated to a daytime speaking slot and upstaged by his archrival, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, and his predecessor, Michael R. Bloomberg.Maybe it was the drumbeat of bad news related to the multiple federal and state investigations swirling around City Hall. Or maybe it was a recent poll suggesting that half of New York City voters believe Mr. de Blasio does not deserve to be re-elected to a second term.Whatever the reason, members of New York’s political class have turned their attention to the 2017 mayoral race, or more precisely, to the question of whether Mr. de Blasio will even face a serious challenge when he seeks re-election.While the recent poll, released this month by Quinnipiac University, found that a majority of respondents disapprove of Mr. de Blasio’s performance as mayor, none of his obvious potential opponents fared well against him in hypothetical matchups.The poll’s findings, however, suggested that there may be an opportunity for a Democrat running as an independent against Mr. de Blasio in the general election, perhaps after a strong but losing run in the Democratic primary or after skipping the primary altogether.
The piece goes on to suggest that one third party option against de Blasio in the general could be - wait for it - Cuomo's fake women's party:
The poll results showed that Mr. de Blasio would handily beat two prospective challengers — Christine C. Quinn, the former City Council speaker who ran against him in 2013, and the city comptroller, Scott M. Stringer — in a primary. But it also showed a closer race if either Ms. Quinn or Mr. Stringer ran as an independent in the general election, although the survey’s questions did not reflect the presence of a Republican candidate, which may have affected some voters’ responses.“I am certain somebody somewhere is going to challenge the mayor,” said Rachel Demarest Gold, acting state chairwoman of the Women’s Equality Party, a third party closely aligned with Mr. Cuomo. “He is a lightning-rod mayor and he has whipped up extreme feelings on both ends of the spectrum and people are going to respond to that.”
The Women's Equality Party (WEP) is not just a third party aligned with Cuomo - it's a third party created by Cuomo as retaliation against the Working Families Party (WFP) for humiliating him back in 2014 and forcing him to grovel for the WFP endorsement.
The idea was, WEP would end up on the ballot near WFP and confuse just enough voters to drive down WFP support and, maybe, drive down enough support to force WFP from the ballot next time around.
That didn't happen, but now we see WEP, Cuomo's fake women's party, being floated as the possible vehicle for a de Blasio challenger - clearly a gambit by Cuomo to convince somebody to run third party against de Blasio since, at least so far, de Blasio appears fairly strong against direct party challengers within the Democratic Party.
Cuomo is spending an awful lot of time trying to take out de Blasio, as was reported by Fred Dicker in the NY Post a while back, and this WEP gambit appears to be just one more attempt at that.
But even as Cuomo plays games with de Blasio, he has his own potential challenger on the horizon for 2018 - Tom DiNapoli, the New York Comptroller.
DiNapoli has released multiple audits this year questioning the effectiveness of Cuomo's economic development programs and the veracity of the PR Cuomo uses to sell them - something that apparently irks King Cuomo and came to a head this week:
In Buffalo on Tuesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo criticized state lawmakers and Comptroller Tom DiNapoli for expressing skepticism over the effectiveness of his economic development spending upstate.
Cuomo, who has long had a truculent relationship with DiNapoli, a fellow Democrat, said the comptroller was “dead wrong” on the issue of tax breaks for jobs and “should educate himself in the area.”
“You will not attract jobs, you will not keep jobs unless you are willing to work with the private sector and incentivize them,” Cuomo said. “This is not a highly competitive arena. If we are not as competitive, we will lose to the other states.”
DiNapoli’s office has issued a series of critical audits and reports questioning Cuomo’s handling of the START-UP NY program, which provides a decade of tax-free operations in New York for companies that move to the state and create jobs.
The program has come under scrutiny after a report found only 400 or so jobs have been created so far despite the heavy spending for the effort.
But Cuomo insisted the tax breaks were necessary in order to compete with other states who have similar programs in place.
“The incentives are working and the incentives are working by definition by what it requires to win,” he said.
DiNapoli, in a statement, responded to Cuomo’s criticisms.
“There is no debate on the need to create jobs in New York,” he said. “Our audits have thoughtful, constructive recommendations for how New York’s economic development programs can be more effective.”
Perhaps further irking Cuomo, DiNapoli has been making the rounds on the radio and appearing with hosts that, well, let's just say might be DiNapoli's way of sending a message to Cuomo:
Enjoyed talking this week with @NYPost’s Fred Dicker @fud31 on NY’s jobs programs and economic forecast. Listen: https://t.co/nVvx2PFL1Z— Tom DiNapoli (@NYSComptroller) August 6, 2016
Oh my. Cuomo's 2014 opponent interviewing DiNapoli, whom Cuomo does not care much for. https://t.co/N82W6RO9O0— Jon Campbell (@JonCampbellGAN) August 11, 2016
There was talk during the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia that Bernie Sanders supporters are looking for a challenger to take out Cuomo in the 2018 primary.
DiNapoli is starting to look like he could be that challenger.
How delicious the irony, even as Cuomo desperately works to find a challenger to take on de Blasio in 2017, he appears to be getting his own challenger in 2018.
Now here's the thing about all of this.
Until we know how the various federal investigations into de Blasio turn out, we're not going to see any prominent Dem (e.g., Stringer, Diaz Jr.) make any public moves to primary de Blasio - the Q poll shows the potential futility of taking on de Blasio directly in the primary, at least for now.
But if indictments come to de Blasio's inner circle, that will change but quick and if de Blasio is indicted himself, well, put the fork in him.
The machinations against de Blasio here, from Cuomo behind the scenes, from Bloomberg crony Bradley Tusk publicly, make for a good summer story in the NY Times, but I'm not sure how meaningful any of it is until we get some resolution from US Attorney Preet Bharara on de Blasio.
The same can be said for Cuomo.
Bharara is investigating many of those Cuomo economic development programs the governor loves to tout and news came early this week that one of his cronies, lobbyist Todd Howe, has made a deal with the feds in return for leniency. Howe has been close to Cuomo since the HUD days and, while the governor has said he isn't really that close with Howe anymore, news reports (and photographs) suggest otherwise.
If/when indictments come to Cuomo's inner circle, the prognosis for Cuomo's 2018 re-election gets a little murkier, especially if the US attorney takes apart Cuomo's economic development programs as little but a cash register for Cuomo cronies like Todd Howe and former aide Joe Percoco.
There also remains the possibility that Cuomo himself is the ultimate target of these investigations, since many of Cuomo's donors have been subpoenaed and the pattern - "donate to Cuomo = get state contract/tax break/favors in return" remains in play in many of these instances.
In the end, I think we'll know fairly soon what's going to happen with de Blasio and Cuomo regarding the Bharara investigations.
There was a report in Dicker's column in the Post that the public would get some inkling of what's going on in the Cuomo investigations by the end of the summer. With the election coming soon, the likelihood is we'll get some inkling on de Blasio too.
But until Bharara makes his moves, all of the 2017 and 2018 jockeying is little more than noise.
You know, the kind of shit Cuomo is best at.