GRACIE MANSION — Mayor Bill de Blasio, who supporters describe as a "national hero" among progressives, has dipped his his toe into presidential politics with a push to make income inequality a central issue of the 2016 national elections.
Surrounded by progressive and liberal leaders from around the country at Gracie Mansion Thursday, de Blasio compared the effort to the 1994 Republican Contract With America.
That document spelled out Republican ideals, legislative promises and is credited with helping the GOP win a majority in Congress that year.
"We of course will have a very different idea, different vision, different approach, different organizing methodology," said de Blasio in making the comparison.
"We will gather leaders from all over the country to agree to a specific set of goals, a specific vision for addressing income inequality."
The mayor made clear that this he is not expressing any national ambitions of his own with this effort.
"I intend to run for re-election as mayor of New York City, that's the only thing I'm running for," de Blasio said.
Thursday's meeting included author Toni Morrison, Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy and other progressive leaders such as Van Jones.
"I feel as though the prayers of poor people, working people, people of good conscious everywhere are being answered by beginning this very public conversation that we've needed to have in this country for a long time," McCray said about the gathering.
De Blasio said the group will meet to put together a document spelling out the ideals and goals of the group around income inequality, including ideas for legislation and other policy changes.
The group will meet in May in Washington, D.C. to sign the document and there will also be a non-partisan presidential forum to allow candidates to address the issue of income inequality.
"All of this is focused on the notion that we are not having a discussion on income inequality in this country and we are not having that discussion at our peril. We must change the debate, the dialogue and that must lead to real policy solutions," said de Blasio.
Jones called the effort "a big deal" and called de Blasio a "national hero" among progressives.
"Very few people have the stature to call this meeting," said Jones.
Statistics show that income inequality is growing in the United States.
A December analysis from the Pew Research Center found that the wealth gap between upper income families, defined as those with incomes close to $700,000, and middle income and lower income families is at the largest level in 30 years.
Asked if Hillary Clinton, a moderate Democrat, would also have address income inequality, de Blasio said yes. The mayor served as Clinton's Senate campaign manager in 2000.
"She absolutely needs to address this issue," said de Blasio.