2013 Newsmaker: Bill de Blasio
No matter how much New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio tries to distance himself from his predecessor, without Michael Bloomberg there is almost no chance that the former public advocate and city councilman would have won the 2013 election in a landslide.
After all, it was the persistent narrative of Bloomberg as the billionaire elitist whose policies increased New York City’s income inequality gap that de Blasio seized on during his “Tale of Two Cities” campaign. Bloomberg’s 12-year mayoralty was the perfect foil for de Blasio as he carved out a lane as the true “progressive” in a crowded 2013 Democratic primary race.
But de Blasio was still a relatively unknown quantity late in the campaign, struggling to make headway with voters, and trailing perceived favorite Christine Quinn and the previously disgraced Anthony Weiner – who briefly seized the lefty candidate mantle in the race before imploding in the wake of a second sexting scandal.
Weiner’s exit from the race was the best thing to happen to de Blasio, who consistently stayed on message – denouncing the proliferation of stop-and-frisk policing under Bloomberg and the lack of affordable housing, while pushing a tax hike proposal to pay for universal pre-K – and delivered a poignant campaign ad featuring his son, Dante, that helped catapult him into the lead late in the game.
After de Blasio succeeded in avoiding a runoff in the September primary, the public sector labor unions that were once cool to his campaign quickly joined the bandwagon, coalescing around a candidate they saw as a fierce advocate for working men and women – a sharp departure from three terms of contentious negotiations with the Bloomberg administration.
Indeed, the stage was set for the kind of “revolution” that de Blasio had referenced many times during his campaign. His coattails proved long enough to help usher in a new wave of liberal City Council members that would help set a more progressive legislative agenda for the city, and after easily defeating Republican Joe Lhota in the general election, he would begin laying the groundwork for his preferred City Council speaker, Melissa Mark-Viverito.
2013 Newsmaker, Runner-up: Andrew Cuomo
After legalizing same-sex marriage, there is one other accomplishment that has gone a long way toward defining Andrew Cuomo’s time in office: the NY SAFE Act. After the horrific killing of 20 children at an elementary school in Connecticut in December 2012, Cuomo forced a new gun control bill through the state Legislature. The measure was criticized for being hastily assembled, but it was by most objective standards the toughest gun control law in the country at a time when many voters were dejected by the seemingly routine mass shootings and lack of action by lawmakers to prevent them.
At the time, Cuomo was hugely popular – a Dec. 5 Siena poll put his favorability rating at 72 percent. Cuomo chose to cash in that political capital, and in doing so he took a hit with upstate voters. His poll numbers slowly dropped through the year, seemingly reaching new lows for his administration each month. The controversial and politically courageous move deserves an honorable mention for the governor in 2013.