Monday October 1, 2012

NEW YORK (AP) -- New York City’s 2013 mayoral race doesn’t fully kick off until after voters are done picking a president. But some of the city’s top political players are already jockeying for position, preparing to introduce themselves to voters who haven’t paid much attention to who, exactly, will succeed Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire mayor who has defined City Hall for more than a decade.

Bloomberg’s successor will face significant challenges -- among them a projected budget hole of at least $3.1 billion. And when the victor is sworn in on Jan. 1, 2014, it will be the first time since Bloomberg took office 12 years ago that the mayor likely won’t have the financial and philanthropic resources to fund favorite initiatives out of his or her own pocket.

It’s too early to make any assumptions about the race, political analysts warn. At this point in the 2001 contest, no one considered Bloomberg a likely prospect. But decision time is approaching -- and there’s a chance that it could be sooner than in previous election cycles. With no obvious Republican standard-bearers, it’s possible that the most significant contest will be the Democratic primary, and there’s been speculation the state Legislature could schedule it as early as June.

If no one unexpected jumps in, this could be an old-school race among political veterans who paid their dues the traditional way -- working their way up the hardscrabble ladder of New York City politics.

"These are the kind of people who used to be elected mayor," said Maurice Carroll, the director of Quinnipiac University’s polling institute. "Bloomberg is a total exotic plant in the garden of city mayors."

Here’s a look at the expected contenders -- and a few wild cards who could jump into the fray:

CHRISTINE QUINN

She hasn’t formally declared her intention to run, but the City Council speaker is already regarded as the front-runner in the race, due to her performance in voter polls and in the money contest that accompanies any campaign.

Quinn, 46, is widely perceived to have the backing of Bloomberg and with him, many of the city’s business leaders, but she’s been walking a tricky line. Political analysts say she must distance herself from the mayor, whose popularity has declined, while holding on to his support.

WILLIAM THOMPSON JR.

The city’s former comptroller is best known for his close loss to Bloomberg in 2009, which was surprising because Thompson was outspent by more than 10-to-1. He channeled voter anger toward Bloomberg’s extension of term limits and lost by only 4.5 percentage points.

BILL DE BLASIO

At 6-foot-5, the city public advocate has been an easy-to-spot presence in city and regional politics for the past 20 years.

He worked as an aide to Mayor David Dinkins in the early ‘90s, then served as a federal regional housing director for President Bill Clinton and finally as a councilman for eight years. His work as campaign manager for Hillary Rodham Clinton’s successful 2000 Senate campaign helped win him a reputation as a consummate political insider.

SCOTT STRINGER

On the list of likely mayoral candidates, Manhattan’s borough president has a "maybe" next to his name. Some have suggested he will instead run for city comptroller, a job that would give him more power and citywide exposure.

JOHN LIU

Liu, the city comptroller and former City Council member, was once viewed as one of the top likely contenders for the mayoral seat, with strong support from organized labor and minority communities. But his prospects appeared to plummet following the arrests of his campaign treasurer and a fundraiser amid accusations that his campaign made use of straw donors who funneled illegal contributions from wealthy people into his coffers.

THE WILD CARDS:

Raymond Kelly, the city’s longtime police commissioner insists he has no interest in political office, but ... ; John Catsimatidis, the Gristedes Supermarkets mogul and bilJlionaire; Alec Baldwin, the politically outspoken actor flirted publicly with the possibility of a run.