By John DeSio
For the past few years Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrión Jr. has publicly flirted with the idea of running for mayor in 2009. When he appeared at events with Mayor Michael Bloomberg, he would jokingly rattle off the exact number of days Bloomberg had left in his administration. But with a crowded field of heavyweight candidates like Rep. Anthony Weiner, Comptroller Bill Thompson, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and maybe even Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, pundits wondered just how Carrión would be able to blaze a trail to electoral committee.
With this morning’s announcement that he would now begin counting down the days until Thompson left office, the borough president’s political stock has risen dramatically, with top consultants practically declaring him the man to beat in 2009 in the city Comptroller race.
Carrión made his electoral intentions clear in a speech before the business-advocacy group the Association for a Better New York. Though he did not broach many financial issues that may face him as comptroller, he concluded his speech by ending his rumored campaign for mayor and starting his confirmed campaign to be the City’s fiscal watchdog.
“Let me conclude by keeping my promise to end the speculation about 2009,” said Carrión according to his prepared remarks. “That New York I describe needs good stewardship of its affairs. I have taken on increasing levels of responsibility to help build that city. As a student of cities and of the economy I am ready to take on even more responsibility. And so I have decided to run for…NYC Comptroller in 2009.”
Carrión will face just as many opponents in the race for comptroller as he would have for mayor, if not many more. City Council Members Melinda Katz, David Yassky and David Weprin, as well as Assemblyman Jim Brennan, have all announced their intentions to run for the seat. Another City Council Member, Simcha Felder, is expected to run as well. But Carrión brings stature to the race, said Democratic consultant Hank Sheinkopf, president of Sheinkopf Communications, and begins the race in the top tier of candidates.
“He’s very formidable,” said Sheinkopf, who added that the Bronx beep is well-liked throughout the City, competent, and would be a minority candidate in a majority-minority City. All these things, he added, give Carrión an excellent resume with which to kick-off his campaign. “He can do what Fernando Ferrer was incapable of and win a Citywide election.” Another Democratic consultant, Joseph Mercurio of National Political Services, agreed.
“He’s a strong candidate. I think he’s probably at the top of the field,” said Mercurio, who put him in a group alone with Katz, with Yassky sitting right behind the two. Carrión, like Katz, is an excellent fundraiser, said Mercurio, and both will likely raise the maximum amount of money for the race. For more on Carrión’s fundraising, read Elevator Diplomacy about how a family that owns a Bronx elevator company dropped $30,000 into his war chest right after receiving $5 million for “air rights” over their East 153rd Street property to make way for the renovation of an old pedestrian bridge to the new Yankee Stadium.
And with Carrión potentially cornering the marker on voters from his home borough and Latinos across the City, he comes to the race with a strong base, especially against multiple candidates.
“He’s cornering two constituencies, Hispanics and people from The Bronx, and that is a pretty big piece of the pie,” said Mercurio. “It’s a big field, and you don’t need a lot of votes to win.”
Already, speculation has been raised that Carrión removed himself from the mayoral race as part of a pact with Thompson, who is African-American, to prevent a racial split at the top of the ticket and to keep minority unity intact. Such a race-based strategy is a ticket to failure, said Sheinkopf, and candidates like Carrión would be wise to avoid it. “That’s not what the City is about anymore,” said Sheinkopf. “If you strike the color button, you don’t win the game.”
Instead, he said, candidates should focus on building a middle-class coalition. The City’s middle-class is majority-minority anyway, and such a campaign would not alienate white voters, he noted. It might have worked years ago, said Sheinkopf, but campaigning on race is not the way to electoral success in 2009. “Today, everybody is just concerned with holding on to what they’ve got, regardless of race,” he said.