Mayor Bloomberg’s bid to end term limits is setting up an epic race for borough president, pitting incumbent Beep Marty Markowitz against powerhouse Councilman Bill DeBlasio.
Markowitz has long said he’d seek to retain his Borough Hall perch if term limits are lifted. He’s occupied the office since 2001 and coveted it for his 21 years as a state Senator before that.
But this week, DeBlasio, a prolific fundraiser whose $608,200 warchest has made him the front-runner to succeed Markowitz, indicated that he would still run whether the Beep is in the race or not.
“There is still an election on Sept. 15, 2009 and [I am] running for Brooklyn borough president,” he said through his spokeswoman Gwen Rocco.
DeBlasio did dismiss any discussion of his coming race against Markowitz as “hypothetical at this point” — but then immediately challenged the incumbent to do the right thing during the term-limit debate.
“I will fight any change in the term-limit law, but make no mistake — the borough president and I disagree on this matter,” DeBlasio said. “The only reasonable way to change term limits is to bring it back to the voters” who approved the two-term cap in 1993 and 1996.
For now, Markowitz, who has banked $935,116 in contributions, declined to hurl his own lighting bolt in this clash of the titans.
But like DeBlasio (D–Park Slope), Markowitz says he can’t wait for the biggest Beep battle in Brooklyn history.
“It was always my dream to serve Brooklyn as borough president, and if term limits are indeed extended, I would be honored to have the opportunity to serve Brooklynites for another term,” Markowitz said in a statement.
A Markowitz vs. DeBlasio matchup could be won and lost on the charred battlefield of issues like development and the use of the bully pulpit. Markowitz has been a staunch supporter of Atlantic Yards while DeBlasio did an about-face, and is now a critic of the mega-project. In his seven years as Beep, Markowitz has used his office to champion retail development and to cheerlead the borough as a tourist destination.
DeBlasio has made “affordable” housing and environmental issues some of his chief policy planks.
If Markowitz has the opportunity to stand for re-election, he says the voters will want him around for four more years to keep the good times rolling.
“My constituents know me, and they know that for me, ‘job one’ is ensuring we continue the ‘Brooklyn Renaissance’ we have enjoyed for the past seven years,” he said.
For now, DeBlasio seems to be the only borough president candidate to say he’d remain in the race even if Markowitz is running. Councilman Charles Barron (D–East New York) told The Brooklyn Paper that if term limits were overturned, he would completely revisit his fledging Beep bid.
And Councilman Domenic Recchia (D–Coney Island) indicated that he has no intention of running against the powerful incumbent — in fact, suspending his own behind-the scenes campaign “out of deference” to Markowitz.
“There is no better champion for Brooklyn than Marty and I would wholeheartedly support him,” Recchia added.
In this crowded field, pundits say that Markowitz rises to the top.
“Marty would be tough to beat. He’s well known and he can raise money,” said Doug Muzzio, a professor at Baruch College.
“He’s the guy to beat,” added Stefan Friedman, a public relations director and former City Hall reporter for the New York Post, a Manhattan tabloid. “Polls show that he’s wildly popular.”
But they’re not counting out DeBlaiso either.
“DeBlasio has experience, knowledge and connections. He’s a substantial guy in Brooklyn politics,” said Muzzio.
If Markowitz outmaneuvers the other contenders, he ought to remember the caveat against lingering in public service too long.
Indeed, the third time is rarely the charm in politics.
“It’s really hard to stay popular for 12 years,” said Friedman. “Mayor Koch, [Gov.] Mario Cuomo and Gov. Pataki had dismal third terms.”