Ex-Citi Banker’s Mayoral Run Has Yet to Inspire Many NYC Voters

New York City mayoral hopeful Ray McGuire has failed to snag marquee political endorsements like some of his rivals. He trails former presidential contender Andrew Yang and others in the polls. But the former Citigroup banker says he has something competitors don’t: no obligation to special interests.

“I’m un-beholden to everyone. I don’t owe anyone anything. Bupkis. Zero,” McGuire, 64, said during a one-hour interview Thursday with Bloomberg News. “I ain’t making no deals.”

Instead, he’s focusing his campaign on telling voters -- especially those in Black and brown communities across New York -- about his plans to revive the city’s economy, reduce red tape for small businesses, and restore ties with the business community that frayed under Mayor Bill de Blasio.

He called de Blasio’s handling of school reopenings during the pandemic “inept” and said voters should be outraged by the lack of universal broadband, an un-kept promise de Blasio made during his first year as mayor in 2014. McGuire has pledged to pounce on low interest rates to borrow more money and fix crumbling infrastructure.

Raking in Money

He’s among more than half a dozen Democrats competing in the June 22 primary. Because Democrats outnumber Republicans seven-to-one in the city, the primary winner will likely become the next mayor of America’s most-populous city.

He said he has raised more money than other candidates in the crowded field -- raking in more than $5 million in campaign funds. But his message hasn’t yet engaged voters: Only 3% of them said they would vote for him, according to a March poll conducted by New York City Emerson College. That compares with front-runner Yang, who garnered nearly a third of the vote from those surveyed. Almost a fifth of voters said they’d back Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president.

McGuire has yet to nab an endorsement from any major unions or political groups unlike competitors like Maya Wiley, the former de Blasio adviser who has earned the backing of 1199, the city’s largest health-care union. Adams received an endorsement from 32BJ, the city’s largest property services union. City Comptroller Scott Stringer has more than 20 elected officials behind him and a slew of labor groups.

Despite only three months before the primary, McGuire said it’s still too early to count him out. He said he is spending big on television, mail and radio advertising, but declined to say how much. De Blasio faced a major deficit in public support at this stage during his first bid for mayor, he said.

“I tend not to pay attention to the pollsters,” he said. “I’m not getting frustrated. I have a singular goal to move forward.”

Another wildcard for his campaign: This election will be decided by ranked-choice voting, in which people select their five favorite candidates instead of voting for just one candidate. Unlike his opponents, who have publicly pegged second choices, McGuire declined to comment on his second or third picks.

McGuire, an avid basketball fan, has received endorsements from high-profile athletes including former New York Knicks players Patrick Ewing and Charles Oakley, as well as restaurateur Marcus Samuelsson and television producer Tonya Lewis Lee. McGuire’s stepson - Cole Anthony - was drafted in November to play for the National Basketball Association’s Orlando Magic and has lent his stepfather some starpower.

Police and Safety

McGuire, who’s resisted calls to defund the police but pledged to revamp the NYPD, said he secured the endorsement of Gwen Carr, who’s son Eric Garner was killed by police in 2014. His death helped ignite the national Black Lives Matter movement.

A former trustee of the New York City Police Foundation, McGuire recently debuted plans for restructuring the city’s sprawling police department. Instead of police responding to 911 calls that have to do with mental health or substance abuse problems, he’s called for a new emergency social services department to address those issues. He has said the city needs a leader who can restore the relationship between the police and the community.

McGuire said he would be in favor of shuttering the jail on Rikers Island if the city could also build what he termed “restorative justice centers,” places where low-level offenders could be rehabilitated into society. He advocated for a new system of incarceration that included high-security prisons, low-security jails and transitional housing.

“Yes, close Rikers,” he said. “Let’s figure out what we do to those people who should be in jail and those people who should be in prison.”

McGuire and his two brothers were raised by his single mother in Dayton, Ohio. A good student, he was ultimately accepted into Connecticut’s Hotchkiss School, one of the most elite prep schools in the country. From there, he went to Harvard for his undergraduate degree and stayed for his MBA and law degree.

McGuire had a lengthy career on Wall Street. He joined Citigroup in 2005 to help lead the firm’s business of advising companies on mergers-and-acquisitions. He led the unit for more than a decade, becoming the longest-serving head of an investment-banking division in Wall Street history.

Despite lagging support, McGuire’s campaign has stayed busy. While the pandemic prevents him from holding large-scale events to gin up support for his run, he’s taken to visiting churches and mosques and attending protests across the city’s five boroughs to tell his story.

“The message with voters is resonating,” he said. “My story is New York’s story.”

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