Is public anger over term limits enough to beat Mike Bloomberg? Polls say no, but city comptroller Bill Thompson seems to think so.
This morning an energized and upbeat-sounding Thompson led a cheering throng of some 200 union members and representatives on the City Hall steps as he sought to batter Mayor Bloomberg over his flip-flop on the city’s term limits law a year ago this month.
The Democratic mayoral wannabe used his toughest words so far, almost as if he was daring the mayor – who is notoriously reluctant to discuss the issue – to respond. Thompson used the rally, which appeared to get the most media attention since primary night last month, to shape the argument that he is relying upon as his strongest cudgel against the mayor:
“One year ago I listened and watched as Mike Bloomberg hijacked our democracy and overturned the law,” said the two-term comptroller. “I took him at his word when he said before that he would oppose any change in the law, when he said that it would be an ‘absolute disgrace’ to do so. Then something changed. He started looking around for a new job. When he realized he wasn’t going to be President, or Vice President, he decided to overturn the term limits law solely to pursue his own personal ambitions.”
On cue, the crowd, which had earlier been chanting Thompson’s “Eight is enough” battle cry, broke into a new chant: “Take a Hike, Mike!”
Thompson said Bloomberg “twisted arms” to get the council votes to overturn the law. “He claims to be above politics, but we know that what he did was the worst kind of politics,” he said.
As the Times points out today, the challenger has yet to run traditional TV ads introducing himself to voters. But he spoke only briefly about his own “new
vision,” criticizing the mayor for saddling the middle class with fees and taxes. Then he quickly returned to his theme: “Let’s make November 3rd the referendum on term limits that Mike Bloomberg refused to give us last year. . .Stand with me,” he urged the crowd, “show Mike Bloomberg that he lied to us once but he won’t have a chance to lie to us again.”
Bloomberg avoids talking about the term limits move as much as possible, presumably in recognition of polls showing that New Yorkers – while still favorable about the rest of his record – are angrily resentful about the legislative maneuver. A new biography of the mayor by veteran Times reporter Joyce Purnick quotes Bloomberg supporters saying that last fall’s economic crisis was a rationale, but not the impetus for the mayor’s decision to run for office again.
Bloomberg is clearly concerned. The mayor, who is outspending Thomson at a clip of more than $15 for every $1 the comptroller spends, has been stepping up his own attacks, drenching the airwaves with ads criticizing his opponent’s record as former Board of Education president.
Look for Thompson to keep the term limits attack revved up next Tuesday night, when the candidates square off in their first debate at El Museo del Barrio in East Harlem.