A spokesman for Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. confirmed a source’s tip that Diaz is very interested in running for New York City public advocate.
“This is something that we are very seriously considering,” said Diaz’s spokesman, John DeSio.
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio currently holds the position, but is widely expected to run for New York City mayor in 2013.
If Diaz enters the public advocate race, he would seemingly jump to the head of a crowded field. As a sitting borough president, Diaz would have by far the highest name recognition of any current candidate. He would also be the only Latino contender and the only one from the Bronx.
Diaz has previously been dismissive of political pundits who have said that running for the relatively powerless public advocate’s office was more realistic than running for mayor in 2013. In a 2011 City & State profile, Diaz and his aides said that the borough president would either make a run at Gracie Mansion or that he would keep his current job.
But Diaz’s fundraising has not kept pace with the major mayoral candidates, who also have significant bases, and the unsettled field for public advocate gives Diaz a major political opportunity.
“Various people have been clamoring for someone Latino and someone from the Bronx to run citywide,” DeSio said. “He’s a very motivated individual, and has put together a good record during his time as borough president.”
That record has included scuttling the Kingsbridge Armory development in the Bronx in 2009 over a developer’s unwillingness to pay a “living wage” to retail workers – and a campaign for a citywide “living wage” bill since then. In late June, the New York City Council pushed through a watered-down version over a veto by Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The staunch advocacy on the issue has made a Diaz popular in organized labor circles, and vilified him among some in the business world.
The Bronx is New York City’s second-smallest borough, and is seen by political observers as a somewhat difficult place for candidates to run citywide. But Scott Levenson of the Advance Group, one of Diaz’s political consultants, said that Diaz is well-positioned to pull off the trick.
“He is probably one of the only people who can come out of the Bronx and parlay it into a citywide run,” Levenson said. “He has deep relationships in each of the five boroughs, and is respected and liked, which is rare in this business.”
Diaz, who has been fundraising for a citywide run for several years, currently has $462,000 in the bank. That’s a built-in advantage over his potential opponents who have not been fundraising as long, including former congressional candidate Reshma Saujani, who has $265,000 on hand; Brooklyn State Sen. Daniel Squadron, who has $370,000; and Brooklyn Councilwoman Letitia James, who has $143,000. Noah Gotbaum (the stepson of former Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum) is also mulling a campaign, and Staten Island’s Catherine Guerriero recently announced a run.
Democratic consultant Doug Forand of Red Horse Strategies said jumping into the public advocate’s race would make some sense for Diaz.
“If he does this, he starts as the front-runner,” Forand said. “Not only does he represent a whole borough, but from the start, he has greater name recognition than anyone else out there.”