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Can Lloyd Blankfein Become New York City’s 110th Mayor?


If years of reporting on finance have taught me anything, it is that the masses tend to get things wrong.

Nobody thought Trump would win in 2016. In fact, nobody thought Bill DeBlasio would become the 109th Mayor of New York City.

Does Mr. Blankfein want to run? This tweet from May 16, 2019 spoke volumes to me.

NO billionaire CEO — especially former CEOs of Goldman Sachs — attacks a sitting Mayor unless he (unfortunately, they have all been “he”s) is angling for political office. Remember Jon Corzine?

So how does a balding, Jewish investment banker win in a political climate that spurned Amazon, approves marijuana legalization and wants to tax the rich and distribute to the poor?

Here’s how.

The Bloomberg Exception. New Yorkers don’t have to look back very far back for a political path that Blankfein and team can replicate to Gracie Mansion. While Blankfein is a self-declared Democrat and gives money to Democratic politicians, he is dead-in-the-water in the Democratic primary so like Bloomberg, Blankfein’s path will be through the Republican primary. Will Republican voters bite? I think so — the NY GOP party will do anything for a win and Blankfein has several advantages a Corey or Ruben Diaz Jr or Scott Stringer or Christine Quinn will not have…

$1 Billion in the Bank. Bloomberg reportedly spent over $250 million over three Mayoral campaigns, with his final campaign being tagged for well over $100 million. For each of the previous two Mayoral campaigns, Mayor deBlasio spent about $15 million, according to NYC Campaign Financing Board records. Mr. Blankfein’s personal fortune is estimated to be well above $1 billion. He will have no problem putting $25 million in the kitty and will easily raise another $5 million. Without much effort and funfare, he’ll have twice as much media firepower as any Democratic rival.

The Democratic Primary Will Be Brutal and Divisive. As a minority woman with centrist instincts, it pains me to predict that the upcoming NYC Democratic primary for mayor will be exceedingly partisan. Policy-wise, there is enough fodder (Amazon HQ2, educational equity, criminal justice system and taxes) for explosive debates. But the more insidious campaign will be the one based on identity. Which minority group will get to succeed the white men that “ruin” New York — Johnson (who is gay), Ruben Diaz (Latino), Jumaane Williams (African American) or a woman? There will be a few white men running and benefiting from the Bradley effect. In the race gets tight enough and the stakes high enough, count on minority activists to cast a spotlight on Democratic hypocrisy (as long as it benefits their candidates, of course). What happened nationally in 2016 — with Bernie supporters resentful of Hillary — could happen in New York City in 2021.

Purple New York. At the core, many New Yorkers are not as liberal as Twitter noise would have you believe. We protect our own — that means undocumented New Yorkers, our state/local deductions!!!, our parks and cultural institutions, our expansive laws on matters that relate to human rights — but also, our city’s position as the center of the Western capitalist world. New Yorkers know we need Wall Street — whose bankers spend thousands a year in retail establishments, hire nannies and keep politicians “honest” through a system of privilege and patronage. Blankfein, who is solidly liberal in his social positions, is the type of Republicans that win office in New York — from Bloomberg to Giuliani.

The Economy. Now into his second term and absent from work campaigning in Iowa and South Carolina, Mayor deBlasio is not anyone’s favorite mayor at the moment. That said, New York City’s economy is bustling along — ironically, boosted by President Trump’s tax cuts — providing the current Administration a lot of leeway to expand services and increase spending. Voters are happy to support liberals when the going is good. But in 2001 amid a national recession, voters gravitated to Mike Bloomberg. When the going gets tough, the incumbent party will suffer and the minority party will have a chance “in”.

That chance is larger than many people realize. And you heard it here first.

Contact Lisa Lopez at LLopez@BuyMuni.com. Visit www.buymuni.com.

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