Do you remember Anthony Weiner? For New Yorkers, he's hard to forget. He was the high-flying recently-married Congressman from a Brooklyn/Queens district who self-destructed spectacularly in the Spring of 2011 when he accidentally posted on a site accessible to his social media "followers" a picture of his crotch intended only to be tweeted to a young unmarried female college student from Seattle. After initially digging his hole deeper for a few days by denying he was the tweeter, he ended up resigning about a month after the initial revelation. Now, you would think, there is a guy who is never coming back in politics.
Not so fast! Last week via an article in the New York Times Magazine, Weiner floated his name as a potential candidate for Mayor, in an election coming up this November. According to this morning's New York Post, an initial poll shows him running a relatively strong second in a field of five. Could this guy possibly be a credible candidate?
To answer that question, you need first a recognition of the importance of the Democratic party nomination, and second an understanding of the various buffoons who are the other candidates for that nomination. Given that the Republican candidate has defeated the Democrat for mayor in all of the last five elections spanning 20 years, you would think that the Democratic nomination cannot be all that important. But you would be wrong. The Democratic nominee will undoubtedly be the strong favorite, no matter how loony. Democrats have a voter registration advantage over Republicans of about 6 to 1. Mike Bloomberg has managed to hang on for three terms under the Republican banner, but by spending vast sums of personal money and with increasingly narrow margins of victory. No Republican candidate will come remotely close to raising the sums that Bloomberg has spent of his own money to get elected. And on top of that, he's not a real Republican in his policies. So at best any Republican candidate will start out as a serious underdog.
Now let's consider briefly the Democratic alternatives. I wrote about current city Comptroller John Liu a few days ago here. Although as Comptroller he is in charge of the pension plans for the city workforce, from all indications he has no clue that there are multi billions of annual dollars of increase in required pension contributions baked into the current system and ready to explode upon us. Instead of telling us his solution to that problem, he proposes a collection of new non-starter spending programs, all to be financed with tax increases on a handful of "the rich" who just got hit with big increases at both the Federal and State levels. No amount of arithmetic can make his numbers add up, but hey, he's only the Comptroller, so what can you expect him to know about numbers? Also, he's the darling of the city worker unions, although he hasn't yet been endorsed in this cycle by their political arm, the Working Families Party. Oh, and did I mention that his former campaign treasurer is about to start a Federal trial for corruption?
Well, how about Christine Quinn, Speaker of the City Council and representative from the trendy precincts of Greenwich Village -- my own councilwoman! She's the current frontrunner in the polls, and thought to be allied with Bloomberg. Many think she is at least somewhat saner than the typical Democratic NYC pol, who believes that more government spending is the answer to absolutely every problem. Well, but her signature issue is vast expansion of "permanently affordable housing," otherwise known as lifetime subsidies to non-poor people and the least cost-effective expenditure of public funds ever devised. No mention from her campaign that I can find of recognition of the pension problem or any proposed solution. Since she is a Manhattanite, we think we can expect her to be not quite so overtly on the take as her colleagues from the outer boroughs. Oh but wait, let's check out this from yesterday's Wall Street Journal. It seems that as Speaker of the City Council Quinn has total personal discretion over some $17 million of funds known as "member items," and that she has requested in each of the past three years that $100,000 of such funds be directed to an outfit called the Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development specifically to "advocate" for Quinn's signature issue, permanently affordable housing. Directing public funds to lobbyists to lobby for your pet campaign issues -- that takes a little chutzpah! In her favor, I guess we have to admit that she didn't just pocket the money personally (well, maybe we shouldn't be too quick to jump to that conclusion).
Deeper down in the polls we have Bill de Blasio, current Public Advocate (citywide elected office with no responsibilities that anyone can name). This fellow is a true member of the Loony Left, desperately trying to run to the left of everyone else on every issue, and to get the endorsements of the city worker unions. He has never seen a tax increase or a spending program that he would not support.
Are you starting to see why Weiner might actually be preferable to the alternatives? Spending most of his career in Washington (he was an aide to Schumer before running for Congress), there is every reason to think that he is far less in debt to the city worker unions than the other candidates.
And did I mention that every one of the labor contracts for the city workers has expired. Some blame Bloomberg for not negotiating new contracts, but I don't -- there is no way the unions will do a deal with Bloomberg, when the alternative is to wait until after an election where it is entirely likely that their support will have put the winner in office.
Yikes, Weiner may be our best hope. Amazing but true.