NEW YORK — It was the morning after a resounding primary victory for Mayor Bill de Blasio, the kind that political mandates are made of, and as luck would have it, the mayor of New York had a tailor-made moment to bask in the glow of electoral success.
It was not to be.
The political gods had conspired to place de Blasio on Roosevelt Island on Wednesday, in an uncomfortable white plastic chair in the front row at the opening ceremony of the Cornell Tech campus, alongside Michael R. Bloomberg, his billionaire predecessor, with whom de Blasio has had an uneasy relationship, and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who has been de Blasio’s near-constant tormentor.
Speaker after speaker praised Bloomberg, who had conceived of the tech campus when he was mayor and put the project in motion. But it was Cuomo who damned the current mayor with not even the faintest of praise.
“Mike Bloomberg had the formula: vision plus confidence plus achievement equals progress,” Cuomo said. “Mike’s formula was shared by my father Mario Cuomo, who called himself a pragmatic progressive. Think about it. A progressive who gets things done, and gets results.”
The governor did not include de Blasio, who sees himself as a paragon of progressivism, in his commendations.
In many ways, de Blasio has benefited from circumstance and luck. Since he entered City Hall in January 2014, the city, like most of the nation, has seen crime rates plummet and its economy churn along. He has avoided, by and large, major crises.
The mayor is expected to easily defeat his challengers in the general election in November, accomplishing what no Democrat has in New York since Edward I. Koch: win a second term as mayor. (Koch served three terms, before New York passed a law limiting politicians to two consecutive terms.)
But although de Blasio is enjoying the fruits of incumbency, he will need to do more in his second term to carry his expected mandate outside City Hall, and expand it to Albany and beyond.
De Blasio has shown little sign of being willing to change. And to judge by the primary results — in which he got 74 percent of the vote and his nearest challenger, Sal F. Albanese, received 15 percent — what he has done so far seems to be working.
He has delivered on many of his promises — notably universal prekindergarten classes and changes in policing that he says have contributed to a sharp drop in crime — and remains loyal to his base.
“Overall the vast majority of New Yorkers are satisfied,” said Letitia James, the city’s public advocate. That’s true, she said, even of voters who do not like de Blasio. “In terms of their personal life and their personal affairs, they’re not in a state of crisis.”
On Wednesday, after the Cornell event, de Blasio strode into his Brooklyn campaign headquarters and hammered on those themes before a receptive audience of dozens of volunteers and staff who cheered and applauded him.
He dismissed talk of low voter turnout — “It was higher turnout than 2009” — and took aim at his Republican challenger, Nicole Malliotakis, when asked about her by a reporter. The general election, all of a sudden, was underway.
“It’s very simple: Assemblymember Malliotakis is a pro-Trump Republican, and the fact that she even has to wonder if she wants Donald Trump’s support speaks volumes,” he said. “People of this city reject Donald Trump.”
For her part, Malliotakis, newly protected by a police security detail provided to the Republican nominee, campaigned Wednesday at three nursing homes in Queens. Arriving at a news conference outside a Catholic church in Ozone Park, she paused, struck by the number of video cameras (five) and reporters (more than a dozen).
“I thought it was going to be a much smaller crowd here,” she said, before launching into an attack on de Blasio’s record on homelessness, promises of new taxes and toxic relationship with Cuomo.
She played down his primary victory, focused on low turnout that she said showed “apathy among his political base,” and contrasted her campaign with Albanese’s, saying she would have more money to get her message out.
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Part of that message has been reminding voters of the state and federal investigations into de Blasio’s fundraising — no charges were filed — and of the personal style of the Park Slope mayor ill-at-ease on the Upper West Side.
He can be stiff and is not playful; he is often professorial; he doesn’t play nice with reporters or with his Democratic colleagues. He talks down to his staff, and ignores advice not to his liking.
But those attack lines have been tried before, by Albanese most recently. The primary election appeared to bear out the mayor’s contention all along: None of that matters to the Democratic voters who dominate in New York.
As if to drive that point home, on Tuesday, after he voted in Park Slope, he took off his suit, went to his gym in Brooklyn, and then went to his favorite pastry shop. He went again on Wednesday morning — a victory workout.
“I think what everyone’s watching is whether or not he keeps an eye on City Hall or on a national agenda,” said George Arzt, a veteran political consultant.
More broadly, with incumbents like James re-elected across the board Tuesday, New York may be seeing a new political normal where the city’s term-limits law has given rise to two-term sinecures. Few politicians want to give up a guaranteed second term to challenge an incumbent mayor.
It’s the reality of New York City — a majority-minority city where the immigrant population has exploded — becoming truly a one-party Democratic town. Viable political opposition cannot really come from outside the party without a crisis, and is unlikely to come from inside the party when every politician bides his or her time rather than risking going after an incumbent, political observers said.
“You’ll have a massive number of people running in four years,” Arzt said, anticipating 2021.
In the meantime, de Blasio must contend with the same old drama that has been dogging him for years: He wants to tax millionaires, institute voting reforms and enact a range of measures that must originate from the state capital in Albany. And Cuomo has not always seen himself as a partner in those efforts.
After Cuomo spoke on Roosevelt Island, de Blasio also delivered a speech praising Bloomberg, after first saying that he was not known as a “sycophant” of the former mayor. His remarks then turned into a campaign-style appeal, ticking off some of his accomplishments related to technology — expanding computer science classes in schools and creating a program to place workers in technology jobs.
Indeed, Cuomo, who left before the mayor’s speech, delivered remarks that recalled in reverse de Blasio’s inauguration, where speakers criticized Bloomberg as the former mayor watched in stoic silence from the first row. This time around, it was Bloomberg who received the praise, with de Blasio watching up close.
Shortly after, surrounded by supporters at his campaign headquarters, de Blasio offered a revisionist view of the governor’s comments.
“I am very proud to be in that tradition,” he said, referring to Cuomo’s reference to progressives who get things done. The mayor then dodged a question about whether the governor had been needling him. “I don’t spend a lot of time analyzing the governor’s speeches.”
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.