Conventional wisdom and recent polling indicates City Council Speaker Christine Quinn is the one to beat in the 2013 race for mayor, but it may not be that simple.
Quinn by all accounts, is the front-runner now, but the race, about a year and a half away, is a lifetime in the world of politics.
The likely scenario with such a crowded field of Democrats is none of the candidates will reach 40 percent of the vote, and there will be a run-off of the top two finishers. One has to anticipate the Democratic nominee for mayor from four years ago, the city comptroller at the time, Bill Thompson will be a lock for the run-off, especially considering the changing demographics of the city. Thompson can proudly point to Michael Bloomberg spent millions more he did, Thompson had little help from President Obama and the National Democratic Party, and still Bloomberg won by only an unexpected 5 percent.
The Democratic candidates don't have a formidable Anthony Weiner in the way anymore, but Thompson's situation reminds me of Rudy Giuliani. The first time Giuliani ran for mayor in 1989, he barely lost to David Dinkins in a squeaker (by 47,000 votes). Giuliani sat on the sidelines for four years, just like Thompson, commenting on city issues, and the second time around Giuliani won. Thompson won't face Bloomberg millions for a second time, and that of course is a blessing. Unless, of course, the Republican party puts forth a strong candidate.
Thompson now has the name recognition, but must spend the next several months proving that he really wants the job. He finds himself in somewhat of an odd predicament. It seems Thompson's mild-mannered style as of this point is working against him. Call Giuliani what you want, but Giuliani's passion at all times could never be confused. Giuliani was very much in your face.
What will be interesting for Quinn is how her relationship with Mayor Bloomberg will play out. Of course there are other factors out there. How well does Quinn handle herself on her feet in a debate setting?
We know Thompson was able to go toe-to-toe with Bloomberg in a debate. First thing that comes to mind of how badly things can go wrong in a debate was one during the primary campaign we did at NY1 in 2005 when the candidates were former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer, Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields, Congressman Anthony Weiner and City Council Speaker Gifford Miller.
Our political team had no idea, a "Yes or No" question would mark the beginning of the end for Miller.
My question was simple, would Miller send his two young sons to public school. Miller said he didn't know, got flustered on live TV, turned to his wife Pamela, and his response did not go over well with the live audience.
''We haven't made that decision,'' Miller said. ''I don't know the answer to that, my kids are 4 and 3. Look, let me tell you what I'm not going to do: I'm not going to give you a yes or no question to a question of where my children are going to spend the next 18 years of their education before I have a chance to look at every school.''
On a personal note, I felt so bad for Mr. Miller, and backstage, near my dressing room, his family were not happy campers with me.
Of course, it wouldn't be New York's race for mayor unless there were so many X factors involved. Let's start with the two other citywide officials besides Bloomberg, both of which are interested in being mayor. Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio, and City Comptroller John Liu.
DeBlasio is someone who should not be underestimated. It is commendable how DeBlasio went from Hillary Clinton 2000 Senate campaign manager, to the City Council a year later, and now a citywide position from a crowded field of candidates, literally first in line to succeed the mayor should it be necessary.
On the other hand, it will be quite tough for City Comptroller John Liu in the race with mayor with the investigations into his fundraising, but even preceding that, Liu had a major problem. Liu does well with African-American voters, and with Thompson in the race, the black vote was not going to break Liu's way.
Another big unknown X factor is Police Commissioner Ray Kelly. Does Kelly run? I have always wondered why for years Kelly showed up almost each and every night to social functions.
That indicates that he running for something, right? Or it is simple good community relations for the NYPD for the public to see the man in charge.
Having known Kelly for over 20 years, my instincts are really on the fence regarding Kelly possibly running. Signs are he doesn't want to go through a campaign, but Kelly knows the opportunity is there where he could actually win. The latest poll shows Kelly's approval rating at a high 66 percent, but the same Quinnipiac poll shows Kelly losing a head-to-head matchup against Quinn. 48-33 percent. Kelly also loses to Thompson and DeBlasio.
"Ray Kelly is a great police commissioner, and he'd be a good mayor, New Yorkers think -- but it's still a Democratic town," said Maurice Carroll, director of Quinnipiac's Polling Institute.
Kelly's Achilles' heel: He would have to prove he could handle other issues besides crime.
Bottom line regarding the 2013 race for mayor: Anyone who tells you they know the winner, don't bet your house on it.
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