Bill Thompson’s mayoral campaign shifted into high gear yesterday, embarking on a dizzying five-borough, 24-hour tour that took him from the Staten Island ferry to Bronx meat freezers into the wee hours of the morning.
Politicker hung out with Mr. Thompson from 2 a.m. to past 7 a.m. on this journey, where Mr. Thompson, grinning and sipping coffee, maintained his stamina well into the morning, hoping to dispel the sleepy-campaigner branding from his 2009 bid.
“We are showing that this campaign is moving to another level,” Mr. Thompson told Politicker inside a Dunkin’ Donuts at his 2 a.m. campaign stop in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. “I think what it does say is that this campaign continues to move forward with momentum and energy … What I think is that we’re running an aggressive campaign throughout this campaign season and we’re going to continue to do that.”
Mr. Thompson claimed the goal of the tour was also to demonstrate how hard many New Yorkers work around the clock. The former comptroller met with livery cab drivers in several boroughs, toured a meat processing plant as it fired to life and visited the set of Blue Bloods in Brooklyn. But the tour, in its sheer audaciousness–candidates have traveled to all the boroughs in a single day but never over one continuous, 24-hour stretch–also helped, at least momentarily, to recapture the spotlight from the scandal-scarred candidacy of rival Anthony Weiner.
As Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” pumped through the Dunkin’ Donuts where Mr. Thompson was meeting with nurses from the nearby Lutheran Medical Center, one of the candidate’s most prominent backers, teachers’ union president Michael Mulgrew, leaned back to take in the scene. Mr. Mulgrew could not help but needle Mr. Weiner’s fledgling campaign, now fighting off another sexting scandal.
“You have two people running for citywide candidacies who wouldn’t even pass the background check to be a teacher,” Mr. Mulgrew groaned, alluding to the comptroller campaign of ex-Gov. Eliot Spitzer as well.
Politicker rode along in a rickety van with bleary-eyed reporters and peppy Thompson aides to stops in Harlem, Hunts Point, Corona and Canarsie. Up in Harlem, Mr. Thompson attended an early morning vigil for Olivia Brown, a 23-year-old woman murdered at the Lincoln Houses just days after five mayoral candidates had participated in a high-profile sleepover there. Mr. Thompson, somewhat reserved but trying to convey compassion, spoke with Ms. Brown’s mother and sister, as well as a boisterous community activist.
Residents complained the housing project was spiffed up with small repairs and a bit of police protection when the candidates arrived, but was neglected otherwise.
“Christine Quinn, she’s talking about trying to serve the middle class. We’re not middle class, we’re almost on the poverty line,” the mother, Crystal Brown, said to a ring of reporters as Mr. Thompson nodded along. “Most of the people here are on welfare or [Social Security Insurance] or some of them ain’t got jobs … So when you represent the ‘middle class,’ you’re representing people making $50,000 to $100,000 a year–that ain’t got nothing to do with us.”
As they walked, Ms. Brown pointed to dried blood stains on the pavement she said belonged to her daughter. They crossed a silent street to the spot where she died–outside a shabby liquor store. Residents bemoaned a lack of security cameras and programs for youth. At one point, after Mr. Thompson asked for a moment of silence, a man in a blue football jersey hustled up to Mr. Thompson, calling him “mayor.”
“Mayor Thompson, I got jumped. I need a few dollars to get on the train,” the man, who claimed he was from New Jersey, said.
The even-keeled Thompson looked befuddled, clawing toward his jacket pockets when a few other men jumped forward to give the man a few dollars. Afterward, Mr. Thompson shooed media away to have a private talk with the Browns.
Following a brief stop in Corona, Queens, where Mr. Thompson sipped more coffee, schmoozed with cab drivers and conducted a television interview on the dark sidewalk near a dumpster, the campaign headed for the Schuster Meat Corporation in the Hunts Point section of the Bronx. Shivering in hair nets and white smocks, Mr. Thompson and the press gaggle watched burgers speed through an assembly line. The severe cold, Mr. Thompson noted, woke everyone up.
When Mr. Thompson and his aides strode into the truck-filled yard, night had turned to day. Politicker’s final stop—the Thompson camp would ultimately end the tour on 125th Street in Harlem—was at a sprawling produce market in Canarsie, Brooklyn. Frank Seddio, a gregarious Canarsie resident and chair of the Brooklyn Democratic Party, led Mr. Thompson and the press through gaping rooms packed with lime crates, pickle vats, plantains and bottled water.
It was a bright morning. Forklifts and conveyor belts and the largely immigrant workforce had longed churned to life. By then, Mr. Thompson was on his sixth or seventh cup of coffee, depending on who was counting.
The paunchy Mr. Seddio, clad in a light blue retro Brooklyn Dodgers t-shirt, explained why he backed Mr. Thompson and not another Brooklynite, Mr. Weiner.
“Truthfully, in my mind, Bill’s the adult in this election,” Mr. Seddio said, citing Mr. Weiner. “Most important of all, he has humanity.”