Bob Kerrey weighing run for mayor of New York
NEW YORK — Former U.S. Sen. Bob Kerrey, the president of the New School University and a Democratic candidate for president in 1992, said Saturday that he was considering a run for mayor of New York City, declaring that Michael R. Bloomberg had failed to fight Washington Republican policies that Kerrey said endangered the city's finances and security.
Kerrey, in an interview, also questioned why Bloomberg had invested so much energy in trying to build a stadium on the West Side of Manhattan. Kerrey said it would make more sense to put the stadium in another borough, and that the rezoning of the West Side proposed as part of stadium plan would overwhelm the neighborhood.
Asked about reports from other Democrats that he had talked to associates about possibly running against Bloomberg, Kerrey at first said he was inclined not to run for mayor. But a moment later, in what turned out to be an expansive conversation, he said, "You know me: I am just crazy enough to do this."
Aides to Bloomberg said they were surprised by Kerrey's comments. They said that just last week Bloomberg called Kerrey and asked him to head "Democrats for Bloomberg" — and Kerrey accepted.
Kerrey confirmed that conversation. "That is exactly right," he said Saturday night. But he said that he began having second thoughts almost as soon as he had accepted.
A former senator from Nebraska who moved to New York to become the president of New School University in 2001, Kerrey has raised the prospect of a candidacy at a time when there has been rising anguish among New York Democrats over the candidacy of Fernando Ferrer, the former Bronx borough president who has been struggling in his third bid to become mayor. Asked whether he thought Ferrer could now defeat Bloomberg given his troubles, Kerrey responded, "I don't know."
Beyond Ferrer, who had long been viewed as the strongest Democrat in the race, other major Democrats vying to challenge the Republican Bloomberg are the Manhattan borough president, C. Virginia Fields; the City Council speaker, Gifford Miller; and U.S. Rep. Anthony D. Weiner.
Kerrey, 61, said that he just signed a contract extending his stay at the New School through 2011, but that he could break it if necessary. He said he would decide within a few days whether to run.
Kerrey himself suggested that his talk may ultimately amount to little more than the musings of a New York Democrat frustrated by a national government controlled by Republicans.
His task would be daunting, should he decide to enter at this late date. For one thing, he would be far behind his Democratic rivals in raising money. For another, Kerrey has lived in New York for only four years, making him even more of a transplant than Bloomberg, who is from Boston.
"The hard truth of this is I became a New Yorker on the 11th of September, 2001," he said. "Now it's in my gene code. I lived here for four years, but thanks to Sept. 11, this is now my city. I care about what happens to it."
Kerrey said he began thinking about running for mayor as he watched the House of Representatives vote to repeal the estate tax. At the time, he said, he was filling out his own tax return and was reminded of how many New Yorkers had been hurt by provisions of the tax code — the Alternative Minimum Tax — which has had the effect of eliminating the deduction of state and local income taxes for many Americans.
"I am angry about the way New York City is being treated by Washington, D.C.," Kerrey said. "Who is fighting these guys? What would Giuliani and Koch be doing now? They'd be raising hell!"
Still, in the course of the interview, Kerrey offered some words of praise for the man who might be his rival.
"I like Bloomberg a lot," Kerrey said. "I think he's been gutsy. I think he's authentic. I like what he did with the schools. He calmed race relations in New York in a way that I think is quite impressive.
"But there are areas where I'm not so happy, " Kerrey continued.
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