Wall Street and the city’s business elite may get a chance to help elect one of their own to become mayor of New York City, as prominent investment banker Raymond McGuire seriously considers jumping into the race to replace the hapless Bill de Blasio.
For financiers, McGuire can’t get elected fast enough: He’s an African American moderate who, in the words of one Wall Streeter, “gets things done,” which would be a welcome change to the alarmingly feckless leadership of the current mayor. And he will be backed up by the so-called Bloomberg coalition, the same group of people who helped elect the last Wall Streeter as mayor.
You would think McGuire — who would likely run as a Democrat — would be a shoo-in, considering the floundering economy and massive budget deficit the city faces.
If only it were that easy.
First, businessmen often turn out to be lousy at winning elections. Yes, our current president broke that mold, but Donald Trump was less a boardroom manager during his business career and more of a salesman, maybe the best we ever have seen, a skill that allowed him to transition seamlessly into the role of presidential candidate.
You want proof: Just read The New York Times’ exhaustive take on the president’s taxes. What caught my eye is just how little money he made as a property developer compared to the megabucks he took in as the star of “The Apprentice,” the reality-TV show that set the stage for Trump’s political ambitions.
Well then, how about another businessman-turned-politician, Mike Bloomberg, the man McGuire is hoping to emulate if he does run?
Many people forget that Bloomberg’s success in New York City politics was aided by some unusual factors.
Bloomberg left Wall Street to start an eponymous Wall Street financial data and information empire and went on to amass a fortune of around $55 billion. In the years prior to his 2001 run for mayor, he spread around money liberally to various interest groups. He either bought their support or their silence when he decided to run.
And the 2001 election was unique. The city had just survived the trauma of 9/11, and Rudy Giuliani’s leadership after the terror attack had erased the Rudy fatigue that had set in. Bloomberg was running against a progressive, then-Public Advocate Mark Green, whom Giuliani despised. The combination of Rudy’s endorsement and lots of money gave Bloomberg his first victory, even if it was the narrowest in decades.
The power of incumbency, similarly weak opposition and, yes, money twice propelled Bloomberg to reelection.
McGuire will have very few of these benefits. In fact, his business history may hurt him. He spent more than three decades on Wall Street, including the last 15 years at one of its more controversial firms, megabank Citigroup.
The demise of Lehman Brothers may have been the flashpoint of the 2008 financial crisis, but most observers say Citigroup, with its size, leverage and holdings of toxic assets, was responsible for the broader implosion that led to massive government bailouts of the bank and others in order to prevent a global meltdown.
As an investment banker working on corporate finance and M&A, it would be unfair to blame McGuire for Citigroup’s woes, but politics are never fair, which is why it’s so easy to see how McGuire’s Wall Street work can be easily demonized.
Furthermore, can a Bloomberg coalition really propel a political unknown against seasoned liberal politicians like city Comptroller Scott Stringer or Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams? Even if Bloomberg openly endorses and supports McGuire as Rudy did for him 20 years ago, does Bloomy still have the political chops to sway the electorate?
If Bloomberg’s disastrous foray into national politics is any indication — spending nearly $1 billion in a bid to win the Democratic presidential nomination yet winning just the American Samoa primary — the answer is an obvious “no.”
Still, McGuire has one advantage Bloomberg did not. The current mayor of New York is so bad, so inept, that city voters may be desperate for a steadier hand.
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