De Blasio admits first debate may be out of reach

 politico.com  05/17/2019 21:44:00   SALLY GOLDENBERG
Mayor Bill de Blasio is pictured. | Getty

DES MOINES, Iowa  New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio acknowledged Friday he may not qualify for the first presidential debate next month, but argued that isn't a telltale sign about his overall chances of winning the Democratic nomination.

As he kicked off his campaign here in the nation's first presidential selection state, the mayor said he has achieved one debate stage requirement: securing at least 1 percent in three polls. But given the size of the Democratic field, which now totals 23 candidates, he may also need to raise contributions from 65,000 individual donors.

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De Blasio opened a federal campaign account Thursday. Per election rules, he cannot transfer any of the money he had been raising since last fall for the state and federal political action committees he set up as he mulled a White House bid.

"We have a third poll that we think is a qualifying poll from Reuters that puts me at the qualifying level. But remember, even if you get those three polls, there's still a comparative dynamic with the candidates that has to ensue, so I'm not setting the expectation that I'll be in it," de Blasio said, following a closed-door discussion on mental health he attended with local providers and his wife, Chirlane McCray, in downtown Des Moines.

"No one should ever overrate a single factor in an election," he added. "Elections are made up of so many different elements and, by the way, elections that will happen in February are not determined in June, I assure you."

The debate is scheduled over two nights, June 26 and 27. The Democratic National Committee has said it would randomly assign 10 candidates to each night. The following debate will be in July.

De Blasio declined to release his 24-hour fundraising totals on Friday, saying he would wait until the first official filing because "that's just the best way to handle it." Some candidates voluntarily disclose their totals to show off their fundraising prowess or highlight the strength of small donations.

The mayor also declined to say who paid for him and several staffers to travel to Iowa and South Carolina this weekend and produce his 3-minute kickoff video, which he released Thursday morning.

Campaign spokesperson Olivia Lapeyrolerie later said the staffers paid their own way and will be reimbursed by the federal campaign once fundraising begins in earnest. She said the video, produced by Freedomland Media, will also be paid for from the campaign once it collects funds.

Part of the video was shot inside Gracie Mansion, the public residence of the mayor. The campaign said it received guidance from the city's ethics board to use the facility in the video, as it would any other candidate's residence, but it did not produce a copy of the advice.

The rest of the spot showed him driving around the city, touting his record on expanding city-funded pre-K to all 4-year-olds and supporting legislation that would require buildings to reduce their emissions.

Following the mental health discussion, de Blasio reiterated his support for universal health care, calling it the "single best step we can take to address both the physical health crisis and the mental health crisis."

"There is no health care if you don't include mental health services," McCray added.

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