New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, the frontrunner in next week’s Democratic mayoral primary, won’t say whether he supports New York Governor Andrew Cuomo’s re-election bid—not because he can’t stand the guy (though he can’t, and it’s obvious), but because he’s simply refusing to talk to the media about mid-term elections.
In a far-ranging interview with New York Magazine’s Chris Smith, de Blasio sidestepped questions about his infamous, obvious, years-long rivalry with the governor who, in 2015, de Blasio characterized as vengeful and petty. But when Smith asked about the beef between the two, de Blasio lashed out at Smith and suggested the reporter was “evincing a bias”:
What’s this really about between you and him?
Despite everyone’s efforts to try and specify, this is one case where it’s worth generalizing. The history of governors and mayors in New York is a tortured one.
But this is personal.
Wait, wait, wait. Are you there, Chris?
What do you mean?
Meaning you’re obviously evincing a bias, and you’re not actually asking “Is it so personal or is it something else?” And I’m telling you, one part of it is purely structural. Where you stand is where you sit. Rockefeller and Lindsay, Koch and Cuomo, Bloomberg and Cuomo — this is not a news flash. There’s a natural tension between mayors and governors that’s quite profound.
After Smith pointed to de Blasio’s pointed comments from 2015, de Blasio again evaded offering any direct criticism, dismissing the comments as “some of this is structural, some of this is ideological, some of this is just naturally what happens when people disagree on an issue...” Hmmm.
Smith, to his credit, didn’t let up. In fact, he doubled down, asking the mayor if he supports the governor’s re-election campaign—and easy response if de Blasio did like his fellow Democrat even a little bit. Instead, de Blasio’s responses were chilly and curt, leading to this awkward exchange:
Are you open to supporting a progressive challenge to the governor next year?I’m talking about this year.
Are you open to it?
I’m talking about this year. I’m in a mayoral election this year. That’s what we’re talking about.
So I’ll take that as a yes.
No, you shouldn’t take an answer like that as anything. I’m not talking about 2018 right now.
You’re unwilling to commit to endorsing him.
No, I’m literally not willing to talk about 2018 right now. Period. So if you interpret it, that’s not fair to your readers, with all due respect.
Would you vote for him in a presidential primary?
It’s not 2020. Ask me in 2020.
Is he a plausible president?
Again, I’m not here to do punditry on the next presidential race, which is three years away. I’m just not going to get into it. You can happily ask, but I’m not going to talk about the 2020 campaign. We’re here to talk about the 2017 mayoral campaign, which is happening right now.
The feeling is mutual, at least? Cuomo hasn’t endorsed de Blasio for the Democratic primary, telling the New York Daily News, “I’m not voting in this election, so I don’t have any primary endorsements at this time.”
Their beef goes back years and years, but most recently Cuomo and de Blasio have clashed over the languishing subway system. On this point, de Blasio was less tight-lipped. “It’s not doing enough, that’s quite clear. The State of New York is responsible for the MTA and has been for decades,” he said. “The governor famously took full credit for the Second Avenue subway last year and in so many ways has made clear — naming the head of the MTA, controlling the budget of the MTA — that the state controls the MTA. And that’s very healthy, to actually finally have responsibility assigned, just the way it would be in my case, on police, on schools, on sanitation, you name it.”
“The state needs to fund the MTA appropriately, which means starting by giving back the $456 million they diverted in MTA funds. And then we all need to agree on a long-term plan,” he said.
Read the interview here.