There are a lot of things to dislike about modern political campaigns: the cliches, the posturing, the dorky commercials, the toxic combination of money and ego that drives some candidates. But campaigns do at the very least create a chance for a conversation. And should Robert Gangi succeed in making it on to the ballot and a debate stage with Mayor de Blasio, the conversation would be very interesting indeed.
“He damages progressivism. He’s not a true progressive,” Gangi said of the mayor on Monday in a wide-ranging Max & Murphy interview (hear it below) about why he is running and the case he hopes to make to city voters.
A year ago, it seemed likely that an establishment candidate might challenge the mayor’s re-election. After all, de Blasio had endured a number of humiliations and was facing state and federal criminal investigations of his campaign’s and nonprofit’s fundraising.
But the mayor and his people skillfully moved to claim a leading role in the anti-Trump movement and to shore up support among unions, making a challenge harder to mount. Then the state and feds ended their probes without indictments. Those tactical and legal victories have combined with continued success on the ground—low crime, good jobs numbers, growing acknowledgement that pre-K was a good idea—to give the mayor some of his best poll numbers ever. That meant no challenge from Rep. Hakeen Jeffries or Comptroller Scott Stringer or Bronx BP Ruben Diaz, Jr. or any other elected official who’d rumored to be mulling a run.
Instead, several dark horse candidates have entered the race. One of them, State Sen. Tony Avella, has already suspended his campaign. Former City Councilmember Sal Albanese and Gangi are among those who remain in the mix.
Gangi has almost no money (at last count, his campaign had just under $48,000 in the bank, while de Blasio reports more than $2.5 million) and no political experience. He led the Correctional Association, a prison monitoring organization, for nearly three decades, then co-founded the Prison Reform Organizing Project in 2011 and led it until beginning his campaign for mayor. His platform calls for immediately ending “broken windows” policing, smaller class sizes, closing Rikers within a year, free MetroCards for low-income people and firing “all the officers involved in the murder of Eric Garner on Day One.”
The combination of his lack of political firepower and his far-left platform mean he will find it hard to get taken seriously by the mainstream media as a candidate. But while you can disagree with Gangi’s blanket dismissal of de Blasio’s politics (which are, in fairness, fairly progressive), you can’t deny that Gangi embodies the real frustration on the left with establishment politics in general. Gangi might not be on the ballot come September 12, but the argument is not going to go away.
Listen below. Next week, Republican candidate Paul Massey joins Ben and me to discuss his take on the race and his chances.
(Theme: MCM by Fort Indy/D. Merritt.)