NYC Comptroller John Liu starts campaign for mayor

New York City Comptroller John Liu, right, attends

New York City Comptroller John Liu, right, attends a service at Bedford Central Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn. (March 17, 2013) (Credit: Charles Eckert)

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New York City Comptroller John Liu will formally launch his campaign for mayor Sunday morning during an all-day tour of the five boroughs.

The Democrat is to make the announcement at a 3 p.m. news conference on the steps of City Hall. Liu will be stumping around the city from about 8 a.m. to 10 p.m., with stops including a Sunday service at Bedford Central Presbyterian Church in Brooklyn in Crown Heights, a corned beef and cannoli meal in Staten Island, a Lunar New Year celebration in Queens and coffee with voters in the Bronx, his campaign said.

If elected, Liu, 46, would be the city's first Asian-American mayor. He was the first Asian-American to hold citywide office as comptroller.

Liu had been widely expected to run to succeed Michael Bloomberg, but the effort has been plagued by scandal.

His former campaign treasurer and a fundraiser are facing charges in federal court for allegedly using straw donors to fill Liu's coffers. The trial was interrupted when the fundraiser fell ill, but it is set to resume next month.

Liu has been the subject of government wiretaps but has not been charged with wrongdoing.

As comptroller, Liu earlier this month announced that three big banks had agreed to expand their policies on recovering incentive pay from executives responsible for misconduct that causes financial harm.

He joins a crowded field of candidates in the city's first mayoral race without an incumbent since 2001.

Other Democratic hopefuls include City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who announced her bid a week ago Sunday, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, former Comptroller Bill Thompson and former City Councilman Sal Albanese.

Among the Republican contenders are former MTA chairman Joe Lhota, Gristedes supermarket chain owner John Catsimatidis and former White House director of Urban Affairs Adolfo Carrion Jr.

Liu has been comptroller since 2010. He was a City Councilman from 2002 to 2010. The married father of one son was born in Taiwan and now lives in Flushing.

At the first campaign stop of his ambitious 14-hour day, an 8 a.m. service at Bedford-Central Presbyterian Church, Liu clapped along to the singing and then spoke before an audience of about 70 parishioners.

Liu said he wants "to level the playing field." He said, as mayor, he would advocate for affordable rent and "have everybody pay their fair share" of taxes.

"When we're able to let each and every New Yorker fulfill their own promise, then that's when the city's promise will truly, truly be fulfilled," Liu said. He later urged those at the church: "Keep on praying for me because I could sure use it."

The senior pastor, the Rev. Clive E. Neil, said during the service, "Thank God for the way John Liu has risen in New York."

Parishioner Amsel Fedee, 43, of Crown Heights, said afterward that Liu had earned his support for mayor.

"He has a good head on his shoulders," Fedee said. "I support where he wants to see people in New York in the next years and the next century. He's for the underprivileged, the poor and the working class."

At a second church service in Brooklyn, this one at Concord Baptist Church of Christ in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Liu spoke to a congregation of about 150, pledging to try to raise the minimum wage and reform the tax code to give blue-collar New Yorkers some relief.

Parishioner Leslie May, 45, of Harlem, said the working poor need support and Liu seemed "more able to do the job" than other mayoral candidates.

Liu traveled next to Staten Island to the St. Patrick's Day parade in West Brighton. Mayoral hopefuls Thompson and de Blasio were also there.

After they shook hands on the street, Thompson told Liu, "John, good luck today, buddy."

Liu, walking on the sidewalk rather than marching in the parade, greeted green-clad revelers along the parade route.

Lillian Withers, 62, a retired teacher, of Dongan Hills, Staten Island, complimented Liu's record as comptroller and "all of the watchdog things he's done."

"Instead of, 'Everything's going well, everything's wonderful,' he says, 'This is a problem and you have to check and look into this,'" she said.

Of the investigation into his campaign finances, Withers said, "I think that's all a smoke screen . . . I think he's a good man."

Mike DeCataldo, 65, a Vietnam War veteran, of Rosebank, Staten Island, said he'd probably vote for Quinn for mayor, but called Liu a "a very nice guy."

"There's so many people who are qualified who are running for mayor, but we want to see what they're going to do for Staten Island," he said.

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