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Why New York mayor's race could be big deal for American liberalism

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There are larger implications for de Blasio’s sudden surge. As the most left-leaning of the top three candidates, he could not only become the first Democrat to lead New York in 20 years, but also help reinvigorate American liberalism by providing liberals with a high-profile office.

“Absolutely, it will provide a prominent bully pulpit to somebody who articulates well the ideas of the progressive wing of the Democrats,” says Kenneth Sherrill, professor emeritus of political science at Hunter College in New York. “He was a skilled political operative before he ran for office himself, and I don’t think he is going to shy away from that platform, if he gets to it.”

De Blasio, the campaign manager for Hillary Rodham Clinton’s successful Senate run in 2000, has called for a tax increase on New Yorkers earning $500,000 or more. He would redistribute this wealth to fund universal pre-kindergarten services, as well as fully-funded after-school programs for all middle-schoolers. He also wants to shore up struggling city hospitals with increased state funding and provide financial support for immigrants trying to start or grow a small business.

And de Blasio hasn’t hedged on his calls for greater restrictions on New York's controversial stop-and-frisk policy, which allows cops to waylay anyone they think might be involved in serious criminal activity.

“What de Blasio has done with great success has been to energize the activist base of the Democratic party,” says Professor Sherrill. “He is saying things that won the hearts liberal Democrats.”

He has also benefited from Quinn and Thompson splitting the pro-Bloomberg vote. “Lots of polls show that about an equal number of Democrats like and dislike the mayor, [and] those who like the mayor are distributed among Thompson and Quinn pretty equally,” Sherrill adds. “But de Blasio has gotten a monopoly on the ones who dislike the mayor.”

Many Democrats express some approval of Bloomberg’s tenure as mayor, but 65 percent of likely Democratic voters say New York City needs to take a new direction, according to the Quinnipiac poll. Only 25 percent say they prefer to continue the direction of the Bloomberg years.

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