Andrew Yang has momentum — can he keep up to be next NYC mayor?: Goodwin

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Watching Andrew Yang crisscross New York and mix it up with his Democratic rivals in the mayoral race, I am reminded of an observation by the great columnist Murray Kempton. Writing about John Lindsay during his 1965 race for mayor, Kempton declared, “He’s fresh and everyone else is tired.”

The line brilliantly captured Lindsay’s distinction. Beyond his movie-star good looks, Lindsay, a Republican congressman, reflected voters’ hopes for a new era that would finally fulfill the promise of equal rights for all Americans.

Yang embodies some of that same generational hope for change, aided by an amiable disposition that makes him quicker to smile than scowl. Optimism and energy are vital now as the city is mired in the pandemic doldrums and beleaguered with soaring crime and a declining quality of life.

But Yang should hope the comparisons with Lindsay go only so far. The Manhattan Republican won the mayoralty in 1965 and again four years later, but most people today regard his tenure as a disaster. Crime soared, the murder rate nearly tripled, municipal unions were strike happy and Lindsay’s wild spending was the prime cause of the city’s later brush with bankruptcy. Lindsay switched parties near the end of his second term and ran for president in 1972 as a Democrat, but got nowhere.

Yang is reversing the order, having started political life as a candidate for president last year. He stuck it out through the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary before bowing to the inevitable. But he gained such a devoted following that he decided to make a run for City Hall. That Yang remains the solid front runner is the most significant and unlikely fact of the campaign. Just two months before the June 22 primary, the question in rival camps is whether anyone can stop him.

With 25 percent of city Dems telling pollsters they are undecided, the answer is obviously yes, he can be stopped. But it’s also becoming easier to see how Yang can win the nomination and go on to become the city’s first Asian-American mayor. To do that, he must navigate sharp twists and turns ahead and fill in some policy blanks. His reluctance to be more specific on schools, crime, the homeless and taxes will become a liability down the stretch, especially at the official debates. Showing that he can be tough Polls consistently show he has three key challengers. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams is the closest, usually followed by Maya Wiley, a former lawyer for Mayor de Blasio, and controller Scott Stringer.

Adams and Stringer, by virtue of their previous elections, are Yang’s most serious threats. Yet they are also weighed down by the baggage of experience, which often creates a been- there, done-that tiredness Murray Kempton saw in Lindsay’s opponents. For many pols, experience instills excessive caution about upsetting an activist group or special interest. Yang’s lack of experience has given him the freedom to challenge the status quo.

That freedom can also backfire, as it did when he casually blamed the teachers’ union for the slowness in school reopenings. He was right, but, after a struggle session with union boss Michael Mulgrew, Yang recanted and blamed the mayor.

His flip-flop was disappointing and erased any difference between him and his opponents on the topic. It also didn’t make a difference in union support, with the United Federation of Teachers endorsing Stringer, a decision that was expected.

The union and Stringer have been inseparable since it helped him win a race for Manhattan borough president in 2005. Parents who are unhappy with schools and want more charter options would not get satisfaction with Stringer in City Hall.

Still, the union nod, along with the backing of the far left Working Families Party, could lift Stringer, who has languished near the back of the pack. On the other hand, the UFT last supported a winner in 1989, backing David Dinkins over Ed Koch in the primary and over Rudy Giuliani in the general. Adams has some advantages, too, being a former city cop and the top black official in the race. He has started focusing on the devastating crime rates, and blasted his rivals in a Tuesday statement, saying “there has been a deafening silence from my fellow mayoral candidates on the rising temperature of gun violence, senseless bloodshed that overwhelmingly destroys Black and Brown lives.”

Adams could benefit if Wiley and Ray McGuire, the other black candidates, were to drop out before the primary. McGuire, the former CitiBank executive, has run a curious campaign, starting with his decision to enter as a Dem instead of a Republican-fusion candidate. The decision ended all comparisons to Mike Bloomberg, the former billionaire mayor who was elected twice on the GOP line and then as an independent. Bloomberg switched back to the Dems for his presidential campaign, and was embarrassed before being hounded out by the far left. It’s surprising McGuire didn’t see that as ominous for his campaign.

Equally curious, McGuire has made too little use of his rags-to-riches personal story to uplift struggling voters. His early supporters saw a potential to build a coalition that included both the top and bottom of the economic ladder, but McGuire seems reluctant to say anything about jobs, education, families and crime that would distinguish him from party orthodoxy. The resulting impression is that McGuire is an ordinary Dem who just happens to be very wealthy.

Priorities, priorities

Reader Doug Gamble offers a summary of the difference between the two national parties. He writes: “Democrats want a packed Supreme Court, Republicans want packed restaurants and bars.”

Cuomo right where they want him

Reader Jon Pepper says it’s time to acknowledge that Gov. Cuomo will not be removed from office, writing: “The loony left has him right where they want him: a docile hostage, willing to mouth their scripts with his hands bound behind his back and a gun to his head. They’ve out-Cuomo’d Cuomo — using his leverage techniques against him.

“His opponents would not want Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, who would not share Cuomo’s vulnerabilities. Why take a chance on her when Cuomo will do anything they ask, as evidenced by the idiotic budget deal?”

Times’ Sicknick deception

By putting the story on page A12 of its Tuesday edition, the New York Times effectively buried the startling news that U.S. Capitol police officer Brian Sicknick died of strokes and natural causes instead of being murdered during the Jan. 6 riot. The story contained no mention that the Times was among those repeatedly insisting Sicknick had been murdered by Trump supporters, first by being hit with a fire extinguisher and then by being sprayed twice with bear spray.

Compounding the self-serving omission, a Times story on the facing page expressed alarm about a study showing American courts “Increasingly Express Dim View of the News Media.”

Hello, Gray Lady, does anybody there see a connection? You can’t distort the truth to fit your agenda and still be trusted. Pick a side.

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