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Nobody Wanted to Come to My Presidential Forum in Iowa, De Blasio Says

By Jeff Mays | November 12, 2015 10:32am
 Mayor Bill de Blasio marching in the 2015 Veteran's Day Parade.
Mayor Bill de Blasio marching in the 2015 Veteran's Day Parade.
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Ed Reed/Mayoral Photography Office.

NEW YORK CITY—Mayor Bill de Blasio said his planned presidential forum on income inequality in Iowa was canceled because no candidates showed interest in coming.

"The forum was one of many ideas and many approaches. It didn't work because we reached out to the candidates and they weren't willing to participate," the mayor said after Wednesday's Veteran's Day Parade.

"But we have a lot of other approaches that we're going to use that we think will work."

The forum was becoming a distraction for de Blasio as its status remained unclear for months and critics began to question whether the mayor was spending too much time focused on national issues such as income inequality as opposed to everyday New York issues such as homelessness.

The forum, which was to be sponsored by the Progressive Agenda Committee, a group founded by de Blasio and First Lady Chirlane McCray, was an effort to inject the issue of income inequality into the presidential elections.

But de Blasio overestimated his level of influence, said experts.

He held out on endorsing his former boss, Hillary Clinton, for months because he said he wanted to see her vision on income inequality.

The move failed to produce any visible shift in Clinton's policies and angered her supporters before the mayor anticlimactically endorsed her last month.

"Many people in the Democratic Party were scratching their heads and wondering what was de Blasio's end game and what was the goal," said Jeanne Zaino, a professor of political science at Iona College.

"There was no way this forum could go forward after he endorsed Clinton," she said. "Who would show up if he had already endorsed? What's the point?"

Despite the embarrassing setback, de Blasio said he was undeterred.

"We are going to be doing activities all over the country and in Washington to keep pushing the issue of income inequality to the fore. And that's how you change things," he said.

"So this is a long-run project. This will be years and years of effort. And we're going to keep trying new strategies until we find the ones that we think work best."