Ex-Bloomberg aide seeks challenge to de Blasio

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Mayor Bill de Blasio says he wants to run for re-election next year. But recent polls show his approval rating floundering. Now a former aide to former Mayor Michael Bloomberg is scouting around for talent to take on de Blasio to try to deny him a second term.

"This is an effort to say 'Hey, we can do better and we should and we're going to run an operation to try to elect a mayor that's better than Bill de Blasio,'" said Bradley Tusk, who led Bloomberg's last mayoral campaign and more recently was behind Uber's successful fight against de Blasio's efforts to put a cap on the ride sharing industry.

Now he is launching an effort to try to keep de Blasio from a second term: NYC Deserves Better. On Wednesday, he plans to release the results of a poll of democratic voters on which challengers they most favor. Public Advocate Leticia James, Comptroller Scott Stringer and U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries are among the names voters were polled on.

"There are a lot of talented people in the city who potentially could run and win," Tusk said. "My hope is that we'll hear from lots of candidates, it's already started this morning quite a bit. We will interview them, we'll talk to them, we'll issue an endorsement and we'll work very hard to elect that person."

It comes amidst mounting state and federal investigations into the de Blasio administration and campaign, which have dragged down the mayor's approval numbers.

"I believe that once this process concludes, it runs its course, and the facts come out we'll be in strong position to tell the mayor's agenda, the mayor's story," said senior de Blasio advisor Phil Walzak. He said he expects the mayor and his aides to be exonerated by the time the 2017 campaign kicks into full gear. And until then?

"The mayor is focused on the work of the city, first and foremost," he said.

As for the NYC Deserves Better campaign, Baruch College of Public Affairs Dean David Birdsell said de Blasio still has time on his side.

"Right now I think what it does more than anything else is begin to open up the primary buzz. People generally assume that the sitting mayor is not going to be primaried or if primaried by someone without much of a chance," he said. "So the question is trying to begin to put names like Scott Stringer, Hakeem Jeffries, like Leticia James into the mix and begin getting them to think 'Hmm, maybe I actually do give this a try.'"

Tusk said that while he is already getting calls from plenty of candidates, this will be a long process and he doesn't expect candidates to officially emerge until late winter. For now he is funding the effort on his own. One of his goals is increasing voter turnout for the Democratic primary.