Adolfo Carrion Jr., director of the White House Office of...

Adolfo Carrion Jr., director of the White House Office of Urban Affairs, speaks during the Bloomberg Washington Summit in Washington. (Nov. 13, 2009) Credit: Andrew Harrer

Making sense of Adolfo Carrion's candidacy for New York City mayor requires the consideration of a crucial series of "buts."

On Wednesday night, in lower Manhattan, the former Democratic Bronx borough president and ex-Obama administration official accepted endorsement from the city's Independence Party leadership.

Later, at a news conference, Carrion said: "I was telling a Latino group recently, 'What currency do you have in the electoral and political process if you're taken for granted by one party and you're ignored by another? At the end of the day, you bring nothing and they offer nothing.' "

By his formulation, Democrats are the party allegedly taking Latinos for granted.

BUT, the Puerto Rican-born Carrion, 51, said: "I am a social progressive, and I agree with many of the principles and objectives of the Democratic Party."

"BUT," Carrion quickly added, "I'm also a fiscal conservative and I know that we have a responsibility to balance the books."

The party that he says is ignoring Latinos would be the Republicans.

BUT, Carrion said when asked about the GOP nomination: "I would welcome it. . . . It would give us an opportunity to amplify our message."

Seeking to foster Republican support, Tom Basile, former executive director of the state GOP, is working with the Carrion campaign, as is Brooklyn Republican Michael Allegretti.

BUT one of the minor party's leaders, Jacqueline Salit, said as she stood beside Carrion: "This is going to be a three-way race, we assume, and that's going to change the dynamics." Carrion, she contended, is already "shaping the conversation on the Republican side, he's putting pressure on the Democratic side and he's giving independents a campaign which is enormously appealing and important."

Yes, there are always "buts." Political campaigns commonly seek out a broad base of support -- which demands that a candidate qualify positions.

That said, Carrion had a lot more "buts" still to express in his 15-minute news conference.

Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who switched from Democrat to Republican to run in 2001, made use of his Independence Party alliance in his three successful runs for the mayoralty -- at record-shattering expense, by declining to participate in campaign spending restrictions.

BUT Carrion says, "I think we do need to reform our campaign finance rules," as Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo also has proposed.

His view of the current mayor's performance? "Well, I think that Mayor Bloomberg, by most measures, has been a great mayor. He's been aggressive about growing the economy, aggressive about attracting investment," Carrion says. "And obviously we've begun to move the needle on education reform."

BUT, Carrion adds: "Did he [Bloomberg] have all the answers? Absolutely not. Do we need more parent participation and local participation in the education process? Absolutely yes."

Probably the most sweeping -- and persuasive -- alarm Carrion raises involves the dismally low turnout of the last mayoral election in 2009. "Seventy-one percent of the people, seven in ten New Yorkers, stayed home," he said. "If people believe the results of an election are inevitable, we are in a political crisis."

BUT, he was asked, didn't Bloomberg's huge funding and incumbency advantage that year (after changing the term-limit rules to extend his tenure) produce some of that inevitability?

Carrion's response to that rang true enough: "The trajectory was well on its way. The turnout in local elections has been abysmal."

Speaking about elections in general, he said: "It's not supposed to be neat. The whole idea of American democracy is that it is supposed to be uncomfortable and inconvenient. We're supposed to be having an argument about what's important."

There were no "buts" about that.