He’s got money, unions, endorsements, and no viable opponent—except time
As the massive crowd of pols, activists, and union members crammed on to the steps of City Hall on Wednesday morning, Councilman Robert Jackson revved up the crowd with shouts of “Who’s not endorsing Bill Thompson?” The answer was, “Nobody,” according to Jackson and his audience, and that seemed about right.
Ex-mayors Ed Koch and David Dinkins were there, joined by State Comptroller Alan Hevesi and former City Council Speaker Peter Vallone, Sr. United Federation of Teachers chief Randi Weingarten was present, along with Uniformed Firefighters Association boss Steve Cassidy, and members of SEIU Local 32BJ, the Council of School Administrators, the United Storeworkers, UNITE-HERE, and the Transit Workers. Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, several City Council members and state legislators were on hand, along with Bertha Lewis of ACORN and Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz, who greeted Thompson by calling him “the Bar Mitzvah boy.”
Markowitz’s greeting wasn’t the oddest part of the event, however. Instead, it was something Koch mentioned. “I was unaware of the fact,” the three-term mayor said of Thompson, “that he had no competition.”
In fact, Thompson (a Democrat who also has the Working Families Party line) does have an opponent— on the Conservative Party line. But with $3.5 million raised, Thompson probably won’t have much trouble defeating the intrepid Herbert F. Ryan. And that’s OK with Koch. “We don’t want him to have any competition,” he said, “either now or whenever he runs again.”
In other words, when he runs for mayor. Thompson could have sought the top job this year but opted to wait. The question is, for how long. If Bloomberg wins re-election, Thompson will have an open seat to shoot for in four years’ time. But it could be eight years if a Democrat defeats Bloomberg. That’s probably one reason why some Thompson supporters are lukewarm on the current field of Democratic candidates; No speaker at Wednesday’s event even mentioned any of them. Instead, they lauded Thompson’s leadership. “If there were a Board of Estimate,” Dinkins, dressed so immaculately he seemed immune to the heat, said, “he would clearly be the dean of the Board of Estimate.”
High praise indeed! Thompson was gracious, called having the comptroller job “living the dream” and talked about his advocacy for New York’s recovery from 9-11, for kids, and for better housing. “We all have the same dreams, hopes, and aspirations,” he said of the common threads that joined his motley supporters, and the city at large. “That’s what makes us New Yorkers.”
And what about Thompson’s dreams? He told reporters he was not looking past November; Asked about his endorsement in the race, Thompson said he was examining all four Democrats and could even give one the nod before the primary. The only sure thing, Thompson said, was that he would not endorse Bloomberg.
But if he really wanted to help his fellow Dems, why have the big splash at City Hall, which by comparison made the mayoral campaigns look weak? “I don’t have a Democratic opponent in the primary, so it lets Democrats in this city close ranks right now,” he told the Voice. His victory this year, he said, “isn’t something I’m taking for granted.”