Inside the mad dash for New York mayoral endorsements
Andrew Yang was mulling a run for New York City mayor last fall when he reached out to a labor union with proven political clout to introduce himself.
During the chat the president of the Hotel Trades Council, Rich Maroko, let slip that his daughters supported Yang’s unconventional presidential bid, so the mayoral hopeful decided to surprise them in December with a brief video extolling their father and wishing them a happy holiday, according to someone familiar with the recording.
The friendly gesture began Yang’s courtship of the union, which recently interviewed candidates in the crowded Democratic field as it seeks a municipal leader at a time of unparalleled crisis for its roughly 40,000 members. Even as it struggles financially, due to the bottoming out of the city’s tourism industry, the hotel workers union remains among the most coveted labor endorsements for Democrats seeking to replace Mayor Bill de Blasio.
As they participate in nightly candidate forums and compete for attention on policy rollouts ahead of the June 22 primary, a less visible race is underway for the 10 or so viable candidates: The fight for high-profile endorsements that can serve to validate first-timers, inoculate establishment politicians from common criticisms and offer undecided voters some direction in the race.
“I gotta change my phone number, ’cause somehow my phone number got out,” United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew joked in a recent interview, describing the frequency of outreach from the candidates.
Rev. Al Sharpton, the well-known civil rights activist, said five leading candidates reach out two or three times each week. “They call and ask me how I’m doing, call and ask about whatever issue I’m working on,” Sharpton said on Wednesday. “We’ve been in this long enough to know why they’re really calling.”
In a multicandidate primary that will debut a system allowing voters to rank up to five candidates rather than select just one, endorsements have taken on increased importance this year.
City Comptroller Scott Stringer announced his candidacy with a multi-racial coterie of young, progressive upstarts who could build excitement around a conventional politician before announcing the backing of one of his closest political allies, Rep. Jerry Nadler.