A civil rights attorney who worked in the de Blasio administration and offers legal analysis on MSNBC is considering a run for mayor — an entrance that would upend the unpredictable race.
Maya Wiley — who worked as Mayor Bill de Blasio’s lawyer, chaired a police accountability board and is now a professor at The New School — is contemplating a bid for the seat de Blasio will vacate next year.
Allies of Wiley’s have begun reaching out to progressive and labor leaders in New York City to gauge their interest in a potential candidacy, according to several people familiar with the entreaties. Someone working with Wiley confirmed she is seriously considering jumping into the race, but would only speak on background since she has not finalized her plans.
Wiley would immediately shake up the field and provide an option for left-leaning Democrats who have been underwhelmed by the three presumed front-runners: Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, a Black former police officer; City Comptroller Scott Stringer, a longtime politician who has aligned himself with progressive newcomers; and City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, whose mayoral ambitions have been challenged by grueling negotiations over the city budget in recent weeks.
Four people involved in Democratic and union politics were welcoming of Wiley’s candidacy, though none would speak on the record until her plans are final.
In interviews they depicted her as a candidate aligned with the moment: The daughter of George Wiley, a well-known civil rights activist, she has focused her career on race and equity. During her time in City Hall, she spearheaded an initiative to assist women- and minority-owned businesses and chaired the Civilian Complaint Review Board, which provides oversight of the NYPD. After leaving the de Blasio administration, she became senior vice president for social justice at The New School and is now a professor of urban policy.
“There is a hunger amongst movement progressives for a mayoral candidate,” one of the people said. “There’s a sense there’s a space in the field. And I think Maya has a shot to fill it.”
Another person familiar with her team’s outreach said that as a Black woman, she brings diversity to the race.
“This field has long been perceived as being too male and pale given the city’s diversity,” the person said. The combination of the Covid-19 pandemic that highlighted racial and economic inequities and a national reckoning with police brutality widens a lane for Wiley, the person said.
Though her television appearances often focus on national politics, she has recently been speaking out on local controversies.
“Demand to cut $1B from #NYPD budget was clear. Today’s deal isn’t a cut. It’s moving the deck chairs around. We have to stop tinkering and start transforming public safety,” she tweeted on Tuesday, as the Council prepared to vote on a budget that reduced the police department’s allowance through a reduction in headcount and shifting school safety agents to the Department of Education.
Several issues related to her time working for de Blasio, whose tenure has become consumed by crisis, stand to complicate her path.
During her time as his lawyer, she advised him on political fundraising matters that did not go well.
The mayor, who has used the cover of legal guidance to justify his questionable practices, raised money from people with business interests before the city government. The matter placed him and his top advisers in the crosshairs of a multi-year federal investigation and while no one was charged, he was found to have raised money from people seeking favors from his administration and then inquired about those favors to city agencies.
Wiley described a minimized role in the fundraising operation to the Department of Investigation, which did its own probe into the matter that concluded last year.
She also referred to de Blasio’s circle of external advisers as “agents of the city,” a designation used to justify keeping private their emails with the mayor. The controversy consumed years of his mayoralty and culminated in a successful lawsuit from two news organizations that forced the release of reams of written communication.
Politico: Civil rights activist and former de Blasio official considering run for mayor
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