New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has announced he will seek the Democratic nomination for the upcoming US presidential election, saying he wants to “put working people first”.
De Blasio, who took the mayoral office in 2014, announced his run on Thursday with a video released by his campaign, becoming the 23rd prospective challenger to President Donald Trump.
“There’s plenty of money in this world. There’s plenty of money in this country. It’s just in the wrong hands,” he said in the video. “I’m running for president because it’s time we put working people first.”
De Blasio, 58, has drawn small audiences so far on his visits to early primary states including Iowa, South Carolina, Nevada and New Hampshire, where an audience of six showed up for a discussion on mental health.
A recent Quinnipiac University poll found 76 percent of New York City voters say they believe he should not run.
“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.
De Blasio, though, has remained undaunted by the obstacles and said he believes he has a message that can resonate with the public.
Political observers said even if 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.
He is barred by term limits from running for mayor again.
“If he ran a strong and credible campaign, it could enhance his stature for gaining a major appointment or becoming a significant player, particularly if a Democrat is elected president,” said Michael Malbin, a professor of political science at the University at Albany.
But Matthew Dallek, an associate professor of political management at George Washington University, said a losing White House campaign would not come without risks.
“If his legacy is that a crisis happened and he was off campaigning in Iowa, that’s significant,” Dallek said. “So yeah, there are risks.”
De Blasio was born Warren Wilhelm Jr in 1961 but took his mother’s family name in adulthood, he said, because 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 World War II, descended into alcoholism and killed himself when de Blasio was 18.
Born in New York City, de Blasio grew up in the Boston area and has provoked New York sports fans by rooting ardently for the Boston Red Sox baseball team.
He graduated from New York University and earned a master’s degree from Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs.
De Blasio met his wife, Chirlane McCray, when they both worked for Democratic Mayor David Dinkins. They married in 1994 and have two children, Chiara and Dante.
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 comes with a bully pulpit that allowed 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.
De Blasio defeated Republican Joe Lhota by a wide margin in the 2013 general election for mayor.
He won re-election in 2017, defeating Republican State Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis by 39 percentage points.
With his candidacy, de Blasio becomes the latest in a line of New York City mayors who have run for president. None has ever won.