He’s banking on a success narrative, business savvy and massive fundraising to break out of a large and growing pack of contenders.
The old saw is that good political campaigns are only about a couple ideas, while great campaigns are only about one. With a crowded field of candidates trying to gain traction amid a resurgent pandemic, the 2021 mayoral race could be the ultimate proof of the idea that simpler is better.
So far, Ray McGuire’s idea is him. A pioneer in diversifying the top echelons of the banking world, the former Citigroup executive turned Democratic mayoral candidate told the Max & Murphy Show on Wednesday that he’s going to lead with his bio.
I’m running because of my life story. The management experience I’ve been given, the relationships are going to be critical here and the vision that gives me a different perspective than those who’ve spent years playing the same old political games. Today, New York is broke, broken, and divided. And I know what it’s like to be in a situation where you have economic insecurity. I grew up in a neighborhood—I never knew my dad. I was raised by a single mom and my grandparents on the other, other side of the track, in Dayton, Ohio. And with her love and hard work … that they gave me through the sacrifices to get a great education, my life has been transformed. It has literally taken me from the streets to the suites. And so I understand the fears and anxieties New Yorkers have from how I grew up. And every time I changed from a business suit to a sweat suit and walked the streets, I could be George Floyd. So I understand that kind of injustice. As I look ahead in what’s going to be needed here, I know how to tackle the big challenges with high stakes because my business career required it.
McGuire discussed his biggest policy idea so far: “I have a vision of creating the largest job program in the history of this city. 500,000 jobs to fix the immediate infrastructure—bridges, highways, parks. It really affects affordable housing. We also need to make certain that we have access to broadband, which is going to be part of the infrastructure.”
While economic issues play best to his background, McGuire frequently returned to public safety as a leading concern for the city. “We need to get guns off the street,” he said. “And we need to focus on the guns and the problem areas. We need economic opportunity. We need to create economic opportunity so that these children are not, these kids—I say, these men of color—are not seduced by the gangs.” McGuire said he would not defund the police, would revisit the decision to shut down the plainclothes anti-crime units and support violence interruption programs.
McGuire’s housing vision revolves around increasing supply, largely through deregulation. “We need to start with the community development corporation that played a central role previously and can, again. New York is the most expensive place to build in the country. The building codes discourage innovation,” he said. “We have burdensome permitting and zoning laws. We have different agencies applying different rules. The incentives to build are limited.”
McGuire says his story is enough to gather a large coalition around his candidacy. “I’m going after the Black, Latino, and white, Asian voters, voters of all ages in every neighborhood of every income level with my message,” he said. “What is now coming back is I’m having a broader and deeper appeal than anyone else in this race. And people understand the journey that I’ve traveled and people understand that with the opportunity, they too can travel journeys with investments that I’ve made in human talent and the capital that I’ve been able to get into communities.”
Although asked about his campaign spending plans, McGuire did not mention that he has opted out of public financing and the spending limits that come with it.
Ray McGuire, Democrat for mayor
Max & Murphy: Full Show of Dec. 9, 2020
With reporting by Inès Yildiz