Bill de Blasio Will Go to Iowa Again: ‘This is Who I Am’
The mayor of New York City says he is not running for president, but promoting his perspective on what the Democratic Party should be.
Even before the swearing-in for his second term, Mayor Bill de Blasio is headed back to Iowa, the land of presidential hopefuls, to headline a December fund-raiser in Des Moines for a liberal group and polish his own national profile.
The mayor says it’s not that he’s running for president, but that the issues now at stake nationally — the Republican tax package before Congress, the possibility of repealing the President Obama’s signature health care law, and more — affect New Yorkers so much that he must take his advocacy on the road to an audience beyond America’s media capital.
“This is who I am,” Mr. de Blasio said at a news conference on Monday. “This is what I’m gonna do.”
The mayor spoke less often about his passion for national issues in the run-up to his re-election earlier this month, but seemed to change his tone the day before the balloting. That is when he gave a speech to some of the city’s civic leaders and declared, “The danger to New York City isn’t here — it’s 200 miles down I-95.”
In his victory speech the next night, Mr. de Blasio declared his mandate after winning two-thirds of the vote was to make New York the “fairest big city in America,” a goal that, not incidentally, allows him leeway to travel across the nation.
The trip sounds more like a kickoff to a travel-heavy second term than a simple one-off speech on progressivism. In a self-published op-ed defending his travel (Title: “Fighting for New Yorkers Doesn’t End at the Edge of the Five Boroughs”), Mr. de Blasio said he will “devote ample time” to winning back the House and Senate for Democrats in 2018.
“I just don’t buy the notion in the 21st century that if you leave the boundaries of the five boroughs the government ceases to work,” he told reporters on Monday.
The mayor first revealed his Iowa trip in an interview with Politico, and for the first time acknowledged plans to create a political action committee. The New York Times reported he was considering a federal PAC shortly before his re-election.
The Iowa visit comes amid an outcry over false lead-inspection reports from the city’s Housing Authority that has caused two officials to resign and spurred talk of independent state monitoring.
Matt Sinovic, executive director of Progress Iowa, said he invited Mr. de Blasio over the summer and the mayor expressed interest in coming before his re-election, although his attendance was not finalized until last week.
“Some people may come in thinking they’re going to run,” Mr. Sinovic said. “Some people come in knowing that by visiting Iowa, it elevates the agenda they want to speak about.”
Mr. de Blasio has been drawn by the siren song of national politics, and of Iowa in particular, before. In 2015, his second year in office, he launched a new group to lobby for a progressive agenda across the country and planned to hold a presidential forum on inequality in the state. The mission failed, the event was scrapped, and the group disbanded.
“It’s so easy to make fun of him, but he is the mayor of the biggest city in the country,” said Rebecca Katz, a Democratic strategist and former top aide to Mr. de Blasio. “Maybe instead of laughing, the party should start to listen.”
Ms. Katz noted that Mr. de Blasio has long tried to remake the party as more progressive and populist. “There have been two big national elections since he’s been mayor,” she said. “Both times he urged the party to go left. Both times they went to the center. And both times they came out with more losses than they should have.”
It is not clear there is a public clamor for more of Mr. de Blasio or his message yet. His post on Twitter promoting his op-ed defending his travels was retweeted six times in roughly its first six hours.