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Thompson Is Said to Mull a Run Against Gillibrand

November 26, 2009

In case you didn’t catch this gem on the New York Times’ website, I thought I’d share it with you:

ALBANY — City Comptroller William C. Thompson Jr., weighing his options in the wake of a surprisingly close loss in the mayoral race, is seriously considering challenging Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand in next year’s primary elections, according to people who have spoken to Mr. Thompson and his advisers.

Challenging Senator Gillibrand is one of three options being mulled by Mr. Thompson and his advisers. He is also considering a run against the state comptroller, Thomas P. DiNapoli, in the primaries, or returning to the private sector for now and running again for mayor in 2013.

With the primary 10 months away, he is expected to make a decision on any statewide bid by mid-January at the latest. Those with knowledge of the deliberations between Mr. Thompson and his advisers spoke on the condition of anonymity, because he has not yet decided which course to pursue.

That Mr. Thompson is considering a run for the United States Senate underscores the challenges Ms. Gillibrand faces in holding her seat. A number of Democratic politicians and party activists have privately urged him to consider taking her on, sensing vulnerability in her mixed poll numbers as she continues to seek her political footing since being appointed in January by Gov. David A. Paterson.

The conversations have taken place despite the White House’s having previously encouraged other potential Democratic challengers to Senator Gillibrand to stand down, a tactic that has led to second-guessing in state political circles.

Concern has been fueled by the mention of some high-profile Republicans as potential opponents of Ms. Gillibrand, including Rudolph W. Giuliani and George E. Pataki, though it is unclear whether either man is seriously considering a bid.

The names of challengers continue to circulate from all levels of the political sphere. On Tuesday, Elizabeth N. Feld, the Republican mayor of Larchmont, said she was considering a run for the United States Senate, despite falling short last year in a bid for the State Senate.

Aides to Ms. Gillibrand and Mr. Thompson declined to comment.

“I think the more the numbers keep coming out saying she’s vulnerable, the more people will try to figure out where she stands on the issues,” said Representative José E. Serrano, one of the most outspoken Democratic critics of Senator Gillibrand, referring to her shifting stance on issues like gun control.

“I think Thompson would make a great candidate,” he added. “He is a progressive voice that hasn’t moved one way or the other over the years, and people would respect that.”

Mr. Serrano also said that Mr. Thompson’s candidacy would be “a national candidacy.”

Indeed, a number of party activists said that a Senate bid by Mr. Thompson, who is black, would be elevated by the pending departure of Senator Roland W. Burris of Illinois, the only African-American currently serving in the Senate, and could help him raise money nationally.

The White House might also be hard pressed to block Mr. Thompson after having already urged Mr. Paterson, New York’s first black governor, to drop out of the 2010 race.

Mr. Thompson is also buoyed by having run such a close race against Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, despite being outspent 14 to one.

“I think whatever Billy runs for, especially in the aftermath of the mayoral election, he’s a formidable candidate,” said Assemblyman Keith L. T. Wright, the new chairman of the Democratic Party in Manhattan. “I don’t know if he runs against Gillibrand, he’s never expressed that to me, but one never knows.”

But Mr. Wright also said of Senator Gillibrand: “I think whoever underestimates her does so at their peril. She’s been defying the odds most of her political life.”

Ms. Gillibrand’s strengths include her appeal upstate, particularly in her old Congressional district, which stretches from Lake Placid to the Hudson Valley. She is also known for her tenacity and fund-raising prowess.

But recent polls have suggested that she has not solidified her support in voting blocs where Democrats are traditionally strong: among black and Latino voters, as well as the elderly, female and Jewish voters.

Of the two potential races Mr. Thompson is considering for next year, taking on the state comptroller, Mr. DiNapoli, would be perceived as a safer and far lower-profile move.

Mr. DiNapoli is untested: He has yet to run a statewide race, having been appointed by the Legislature in 2007 to replace Alan G. Hevesi, who resigned after pleading guilty to a felony.

  1. Young Republican permalink
    November 26, 2009 9:27 am

    Smart move. No big Democrats can tell him what do because none of them helped him in his last election. I wish I could listen in to the phone call from Barack Obama asking him not to run. Maybe if the president would have mentioned him by name and actually endorsed him, not just have his spokesman say “the president supports the democratic nominee,” Thompson would be our mayor.

  2. 40 Acres and a Mule permalink
    November 26, 2009 4:20 pm

    I think William C. “Bill” Thompson a good man but he ran a lackluster campaign for mayor.

    His Democrat primary opponent, Councilman Tony Avella from Queens, did a much better job at campaigning and engaging voters.

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