N.Y. Dems are blah on Blaz

ODD MAN OUT AT CONFAB OF PARTY POOBAHS

New York Daily News - - FRONT PAGE - BY JIL­LIAN JOR­GENSEN

The bar of the El San Juan Ho­tel was packed with politi­cians last week — all of them New York­ers buzzing about the big win­ners of the week's elec­tion, and about those who would run in the next one.

Pub­lic Advocate Leti­tia James, who will be­come the first woman and first black at­tor­ney gen­eral, was the toast of the town at the an­nual So­mos Con­fer­ence.

Sen. An­drea Ste­wart-Cousins (D-Westch­ester County), who will be­come ma­jor­ity leader in Jan­uary, seemed to get a stand­ing ova­tion ev­ery time she en­tered a room.

In ev­ery cor­ner, a can­di­date for pub­lic advocate met with a la­bor leader, gaming out whose sup­port they would need for a path to vic­tory in a win­ter elec­tion to fill James' seat.

And one name was no­tice­ably ab­sent from those talks: Mayor de Bla­sio.

"In all those con­ver­sa­tions, the cen­ters of power are be­ing dis­cussed and no one talks about what role the mayor is go­ing to play in shap­ing the con­ver­sa­tion in Al­bany, or around the pub­lic advocate's race, or around the fu­ture speaker's race, or re­ally about any­thing," one Demo­cratic op­er­a­tive with ties to the mayor said.

The con­fer­ence comes as de Bla­sio, less than a year into his sec­ond term, has un­veiled few if any new ma­jor pol­icy pro­pos­als.

He did not stump for can­di­dates who were try­ing to flip state Se­nate seats in the gen­eral elec­tion, nor was he par­tic­u­larly ac­tive dur­ing the pri­mary — though he did en­dorse three of the chal­lengers to In­de­pen­dent Demo­cratic Con­fer­ence mem­bers, one of them, Robert Jack­son, just days be­fore the race.

But de Bla­sio's role was sig­nif­i­cantly smaller than it was in 2014 — an ef­fort that ended in con­tin­ued GOP Se­nate and le­gal in­ves­ti­ga­tions. And it comes as he in­stead fo­cuses on elec­tions else­where in the coun­try, stump­ing for can­di­dates in Florida and Wis­con­sin as he tries to bur­nish a na­tional pro­file.

"When you talk to peo­ple here, the con­ver­sa­tion about the mayor is about his absence from the of­fice and his dis­in­ter­est in the job," the op­er­a­tive said.

His absence from one race be­came con­spic­u­ous at a Thurs­day night party, when of­fi­cials packed into the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico for a welcome party. De Bla­sio heaped praise on James — whom he did not en­dorse in the pri­mary. His wife, Chirlane McCray, backed her op­po­nent, Ze­phyr Tea­chout.

James didn't men­tion the mayor when she joined the stage.

“I want to thank all of you for your sup­port, but I par­tic­u­larly want to give a shoutout to the Speaker Carl Heastie who was with me from day one, and of course, (Assem­bly­man) Mar­cos Cre­spo who brought the Bronx in like no one can ever be­lieve,” she said.

It seemed the mayor would not hold much sway in an­other elec­tion — the mad­cap race to be­come pub­lic advocate, an of­fice seen as a spring­board to suc­ceed­ing the mayor. Lob­by­ists and op­er­a­tives and of­fi­cials gabbed about what the front-run­ners might need to do to win.

No­body was talk­ing about who the sit­ting Demo­cratic mayor would back.

“I'm not sure that there are many peo­ple run­ning for pub­lic advocate that want the mayor's en­dorse­ment, and that tells you some­thing,” a prom­i­nent city Demo­crat told the Daily News.

But de Bla­sio's spokesman Eric Phillips ar­gued the mayor was in Puerto Rico fresh off of sev­eral elec­toral wins that bol­stered his po­lit­i­cal stand­ing.

“The mayor won all his Char­ter re­vi­sion pro­pos­als and con­trib­uted sig­nif­i­cantly to key wins by state se­nate Democrats and the Work­ing Fam­i­lies Party,” said Phillips, who knocked the off-the-record crit­ics.

“Bill de Bla­sio's never been stronger po­lit­i­cally and the fact that these crit­ics are hid­ing their names is ev­i­dence of that,” Phillips said.

Mayor de Bla­sio seemed to be an af­ter­thought at meet­ing of key Democrats in Puerto Rico.

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