New York Election Moves City Government to the Left

New York Election Moves City Government to the Left

Well, another election day in New York City has come and gone, and with it, the hopes of some and the fears of others have gone as well. What is certain is that the city government is moving to the left. After 20 years, there is an actual Democrat in Gracie Mansion by the name of Bill de Blasio. Moreover, we have a real liberal as city comptroller, Scott Stringer — meaning budgeting and spending issues will be done with a progressive slant. And we have a community activist as public advocate with Letitia James. The City Council remains a Democratic body by a 12:1 ratio.

De Blasio crushed Republican Joe Lhota, in the closest thing to a foregone conclusion this side of a Zimbabwean election. De Blasio ran a solid campaign and against the Bloomberg administration. Lhota ran as a Bloomberg fan, then as De Blasio with tax cuts, and ultimately as a fearmonger — alleging that New York was just “One Bad Mayor” away from crime, economic collapse and the mass die-off of puppies and kittens. His claim to fame was running the MTA and getting the subways up and running just three days after Hurricane Sandy. The trouble is no one likes the MTA.

Scott Stringer defeated John Burnett largely on name recognition and a track record in public service. Stringer benefited from the primary fight against Eliot Spitzer, which helped get his name in front of people who don’t live and breathe politics. And as Manhattan borough president, Stringer had access to the formidable Democratic Machine. Burnett, on the other hand, was making his first run for public office after a couple decades in finance. I think his future with the GOP in New York is a bright one, but this just wasn’t his year and his race.

Meanwhile, Tish James ran for public advocate without a Republican opponent. The office is largely one of hectoring the powers that be on behalf of the common citizen, and for that reason, I think the Republicans made a huge mistake in not at least trying for the job. With a Democratic mayor, it could be tantamount to Leader of the Opposition. Instead, de Blasio gets an ally who can keep the pressure on the issues he defines. And as a political activist of a great many years standing, James will likely be able to position herself for the next decade from this office.

The 51-member City Council was extremely Democratic going into the election — 47 Dems to four GOP members. While not all the races have been decided, there’s no reason to believe the mix is going to shift to the Republicans. Even if they get lucky, they won’t have more than six seats. The only real question is who will be Speaker.

So that means that New York is about to launch a great progressive experiment. There is effectively no opposition in the city government. Police reform (starting with an end to the stop-and-frisk policy that makes so many young people hate cops), education changes and the living wage bill will all pass. The question is not if, but when, and in what form.

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