Rep. Anthony Weiner, a candidate for mayor in 2009, is acting as if he'll be facing off against Mayor Bloomberg next year, even though the incumbent is not running for re-election.
The Democratic congressman who represents Queens and Brooklyn critiqued the mayor's record during a recent interview with The New York Sun, saying Mr. Bloomberg hasn't done enough to successfully push the city's agenda in Albany, protect New York's diminishing middle class, and create jobs.
When asked to explain the discrepancy between his assessment of the mayor's tenure and the consistently high approval ratings New Yorkers have given him during the past few years, Mr. Weiner had a simple answer: "He's had a lapdog press corps."
"This is a very tough press corps for me, and that's the way it's supposed to be," he said. "I think to a large degree he gets a pass."
Attacking Mr. Bloomberg's legacy at City Hall may be a tough strategy for Mr. Weiner to pull off as he heads into next year's mayoral campaign and attempts to cast himself as a champion of the middle class.
Mr. Bloomberg's approval ratings have dipped below 70% only once during the past two and a half years, according to one polling institute, and New Yorkers overwhelmingly have said they think he'd make a good governor.
Mr. Weiner, 43, said Mr. Bloomberg's signature approach to navigating Albany — donating millions to Senate Republicans — is one he's never seen work, and he argues that it's incumbent upon any mayor to "constantly be leaning into the idea that Albany has too much control over our fate," a theme sure to come up in the mayoral race.
"The people of the city of New York should have much more control and more final say. If we want to decide to put a dopey tax on drivers coming in and create a horrible system that puts 40% of all the money we collect back into infrastructure to have this Big Brother, cameras, big government — as dopey as it might be, I don't want some assemblyman from Skinnyapolis, or whatever it is, having a vote on it," he said, referring to Mr. Bloomberg's congestion pricing proposal, which he opposed. "I just think that every day, mayors should be leaning into that problem."
Mr. Weiner, who ran for mayor in 2005 and bowed out of the race after coming in second place in the primary behind the Democratic nominee, Fernando Ferrer, is expected to be running against the speaker of the City Council, Christine Quinn, and Comptroller William Thompson Jr. next year.
Early polling figures show him leading that pack, but Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, who has said he is not interested in running for mayor, comes in as the top pick for the position.
One test for the next mayor of New York will be the rebuilding of ground zero and the question of whether companies should be given incentives to relocate into one of the new towers.
Mr. Weiner appears unlikely to offer companies subsidies to make the move, arguing that in general he thinks that companies that threaten to leave the city aren't actually going to pack up and move.
He said he is opposed to the existence of member items in the City Council, and said that during the 2005 mayoral campaign he proposed changing the way city funds are allocated to nonprofit organizations by creating a tsar at City Hall who would oversee the distribution of public money and help leverage private sector funding.
He pledged during the 2005 campaign to raise taxes on New Yorkers who earn more than $1 million and cut taxes for those who earn less than $150,000, a position he said he still supports. He also said he'd raise taxes on New Yorkers who earn more than $1 billion a year.
Mr. Weiner is promising to be a "different" kind of candidate, starting with a pledge to not accept donations from unions or political action committees for his mayoral campaign, even though he has accepted them for his congressional seat. He says he's never run with support of the Democratic "machine," and argues that he's never lost a race, despite his second-place finish in the 2005 Democratic primary for mayor.
"I think Democrats have deserved to lose the last few elections, the way we've been running campaigns. If I see one more press conference on the steps of City Hall with people holding some interest group sign or another ... .
"I just don't think that's what New Yorkers aspire to," he said.