Dems ponder working with NYC's next mayor

New Yorkers chose Bill de Blasio as mayor, electing the first Democrat since 1989. Republican rival Joe Lhota says the city "cannot go backwards." AP video. (Nov. 5)

Dan Janison

Melville. N.Y. Tuesday January 26, 2010. Daniel Janison, Dan Janison

Dan Janison has been a reporter at Newsday for 10

bio | email

Even before the polls opened Tuesday, New York's entrenched Democratic elected officials were clearly pondering what shape their dealings with Bill de Blasio, as the new power player on the scene, might take.

Given Albany's power over municipal issues, some mayors have had famously strained relations with governors and legislative leaders. While de Blasio once worked for Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, a new dynamic remains to develop in their roles as mayor-elect and governor, a Cuomo ally said.

"There's finally going to be a Democratic mayor after 20 years, and most Democrats will want to get along with de Blasio to the extent possible," another state operative said Monday. "Will there be crazy stuff behind the scenes? Sure. If there are big disagreements, you can expect they would at least start off below the surface."

De Blasio's proposal for a new tax on top earners to fund universal pre-K programs may signal tension for next year, when Cuomo and lawmakers in both houses face election. "That's a heavy lift," the official said.

With de Blasio carrying a progressive banner, Cuomo stands to be compared with him ideologically. To more conservative voters, the governor may wish to appear more "moderate" than de Blasio, and to more liberal voters, in tune with his goals. This could vary by issue. De Blasio also faces a brand new set of dealings with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan) and State Senate leaders.

Closer to home, one City Hall insider wondered aloud Monday how much de Blasio may become involved in the City Council's internal politicking over a new speaker to replace his former rival Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan). The outcome of that competition matters because of a speaker's key role in negotiating budgets and legislation with a mayor.

When it comes to pushing its agenda in the federal arena, City Hall deals with Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). For most of Schumer's 15 years in the Senate, Michael Bloomberg has been mayor. And beyond Schumer's wife serving as transportation commissioner for more than five of those years, the senator's working bond with the current mayor has been simpatico, staffers in both camps say.

Last year, Schumer called Quinn "an amazing leader" and said "the best for her is yet to come." But de Blasio won by running against that impression and by chipping away at Bloomberg's record.

Schumer endorsed de Blasio in the general election, saying they share a philosophy as "pro-growth progressives." One Schumer ally said de Blasio will need to prove "he has the political backbone to say no to people and show himself to be a good manager."

In the partisan world, de Blasio also becomes the first New York City mayor endorsed by the left-leaning Working Families Party. Letitia James, the public advocate-to-be, first won her Brooklyn Council seat solely as a WFP candidate. Does this election further empower the minor party?

The question comes with a grand jury now expected to explore claims the party violated laws by giving candidates below-cost campaign-related services four years ago. Such claims have been probed on and off for several years.