Race to replace Bloomberg picks up speed

Mayor Michael Bloomberg photographed with City Council Speaker Mayor Michael Bloomberg photographed with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn at a news conference. Photo Credit: Steven Sunshine

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The race to succeed Michael Bloomberg as the 109th mayor of New York next year is picking up speed -- and intrigue.

Already, the names of high-powered figures such as departing Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly and MTA chief Joseph Lhota have been floated with varying degrees of enthusiasm. Clinton and Kelly are said to have no interest in City Hall, but Lhota, who was a deputy mayor under Rudy Giuliani and is riding the crest of quickly restoring the transit system after superstorm Sandy, is seriously considering a run.

He joins a crowded field that already includes City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and City Comptroller John Liu, but like Lhota, they are coyly staying mum on the rumors.

So far, the only two candidates to formally enter the race are Manhattan Media publisher Tom Allon, who's running as a Republican; and former City Comptroller Bill Thompson, a Democrat who's taking another shot after losing to Bloomberg in the 2009 election.

Political experts say they aren't surprised by the hype or the secrecy because voters are hungry and eager to see a new leader after three terms of one mayor, and the contenders are strategically looking for ways to tap into New Yorkers' needs.

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"There are people out there who think that 12 years of Bloomberg are too much," said Christina Greer, an assistant professor of political science at Fordham University.

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Greer said all of the potential candidates got the wheels greased for their election runs the minute Bloomberg announced his third term, because they knew the race would be a competitive free-for-all.

Quinn leads the pack, Greer said, because she constantly hits the airwaves on various topical issues, including same-sex marriage, and takes stances on issues without alienating the large amount of supporters who back Bloomberg.

In the aftermath of superstorm Sandy, however, all of the potential contenders, no matter how popular or politically powerful they are, have the chance to show voters what they can offer during the next four years.

Whether it's Lhota's handling of the subway restoration, or Liu's updates on financial solutions to storm recovery, New Yorkers will remember their actions come election time.

"What a disaster like Hurricane Sandy does is it focuses the spotlight on qualities of leadership during a campaign," said Patrick Egan, an assistant professor of politics and public policy at New York University.

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With the election less than a year away, the experts say that any candidate that seriously wants the seat needs to get a move on.

Voters are already savvy enough to know who the top runners are, and for figures like Lhota or former congressman Anthony Weiner, who has been rumored to be considering a comeback, they have to demonstrate why they're the best pick, according to Andrew Moesel, a political consultant.

"Can they translate their recent popularity into a clear campaign strategy? That's the main question," he said.

With Katharine Ulrich

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