It appears Brooklyn has dodged a second-coming of the de Blasio administration. On Oct. 15, First Lady Chirlane McCray announced that she will not run for borough president. I think I can safely say that most of us are breathing a sigh of relief.
“It was a difficult decision,” McCray told NY1. “I thought about running for Brooklyn borough president long and hard.” But ultimately, she said, her “focus is on the work I’m doing right now.”
However, it is her work — combined with the mass unpopularity of her husband — that made her candidacy unviable. This is saying a lot in an overwhelmingly Democratic borough that the couple calls home.
In an effort to boost her public profile to run for Brooklyn’s top spot, Mayor Bill de Blasio put her in charge of the mental health program ThriveNYC, which had noble goals. However, it has been criticized by many, including Democrats in the City Council, for spending $1.25 billion in taxpayer money without producing results.
She also took charge of “She Built NYC,” a contest designed to honor notable women with statues in the five boroughs. This, too, was a disaster, culminating in her refusal to memorialize Mother Frances Cabrini, despite the fact that the patron saint received the most nominations from New Yorkers.
Predictably, McCray’s biggest obstacle was her husband’s dismal tenure as mayor, which has become more unpopular with each passing month — even among Democrats.
Indeed, southwest Brooklyn elected officials like Councilman Justin Brannan and State Sen. Andrew Gounardes have suddenly become more outspoken in criticizing de Blasio on various issues. Clearly, they are now trying to distance themselves from the mayor. Unfortunately for them, Brannan and Gounardes can’t erase the fact that they were early, enthusiastic supporters of his initial campaign for City Hall in 2013, and were on board with his re-election in 2017.
This will certainly come into play this Election Day, as Gounardes finds himself up against a fierce Republican challenger in Vito Bruno. Bruno has made Gounardes’ affiliation with de Blasio, along with his vote for bail reform, key themes of his campaign. Gounardes, on the other hand, has resorted to negative mailings insinuating that Bruno participated in illegal activity while managing nightclubs in the 1970s and ’80s, a claim mentioned in Bob Woodward’s 1984 book, “Wired.” This reeks of desperation, and feeds into the unfortunate stereotype that Italian-American businessmen can only be successful because of involvement with the mob and organized crime.
Next year, in his re-election race, Brannan will similarly have to answer for his support for de Blasio, and for reforms Democrats have made to the NYPD and the criminal justice system that many feel have made the city less safe.
Just as de Blasio has cost McCray her chance at becoming borough president, he may also have ended the political careers of Gounardes and Brannan.
Bob Capano has worked for Brooklyn Republican and Democrat elected officials, and has been an adjunct political science professor for over 15 years. Follow him on twitter @bobcapano.