EAST VILLAGE — Two Republicans have declared their intent to challenge Mayor Bill de Blasio's efforts to gain a second term.
But at two labor union endorsements last week as part of his 2017 re-election push, de Blasio didn't mention real estate executive Paul Massey or former Jet and Harlem minister Michel Faulkner at all.
Instead, de Blasio targeted another New York Republican as the foil in his campaign: President-elect Donald Trump.
"This election has left a lot of confusion, a lot of unanswered questions. But I'll tell you something. We're going to defend the values of this city. We're going to keep working to make sure that working people are treated right," the mayor told more than 200 members of the Uniformed Sanitationmen's Association.
De Blasio has positioned himself as a prominent voice in a national movement to resist potential policies by Trump that could deport millions of undocumented immigrants, require Muslims to become part of a registry and bring back the unconstitutional use of stop-and-frisk.
He has translated that into a threat facing New Yorkers and touted his policies — such as IDNYC, which provides identification cards regardless of immigration status, and a 97 percent decline in the use stop-and-frisk — as the antidote to Trump.
De Blasio has promised to never turn IDNYC data over to the federal government, vowed to sue if the feds attempts to have Muslims join a registry and pledged not to increase stop-and-frisk.
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"We will fight anything we see as undermining our values. And here is my promise to you as your mayor – we will use all the tools at our disposal to stand up for our people," de Blasio said Monday during a speech at Cooper Union's Great Hall.
The hour-long speech capped off two weeks of pledges to protect New Yorkers from Trump's policies.
"If you listen to his speech on Trump, it was really about galvanizing his base," said Christina Greer, a professor of political science at Fordham University. "This was a speech for the other, the immigrants, Muslims and African-Americans who support the mayor."
Up until Trump's election, de Blasio had been dogged by questions of record homelessness and the status of multiple federal and state probes into his fundraising. De Blasio began speaking out against Trump the day after the presidential election. Even the mayor's opponents have taken notice.
Patrick Muncie, a strategist for NYC Deserves Better, a group launched by former Michael Bloomberg campaign manager Bradley Tusk to oppose de Blasio's re-election, said it's clear that the mayor is using Trump's election to his advantage — but that it won't work.
"Generally speaking, we think that Trump being the goose that laid the golden egg for de Blasio's re-election is not realistic. Any good will he is receiving as a result of Trump's election is temporary," said Muncie.
He added that "most New Yorkers won't be using the mayoral race as a referendum on the president of the United States."
Kenneth Sherrill, professor emeritus of political science at Hunter College, said the mayor has a chance to be the face of any anti-Trump movement especially as powerful Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer seeks to find more centrist positions in order to work with Republicans.
"With Republicans controlling both houses of Congress, de Blasio could be shining Trump's shoes and still not get funding for education through the House and Senate," said Sherrill.
"Some things are protected by Schumer and the fact that Trump loves the city and identifies with the city and wants to be known as the president who did huge things for the city," he added.
De Blasio said that anyone who thinks his Cooper Union speech and other efforts to combat Trump are about his re-election haven't been paying attention.
"Anyone who is saying that is missing the whole meaning of the speech and why it was necessary to give it. There is a tremendous amount of concern in this town, 8 1/2 million people, trying to understand what this federal election means for us," de Blasio told Errol Louis on NY 1 when asked if he was running against Trump.
Speaking Tuesday at an unrelated press conference, de Blasio said his criticism of Trump does not mean he's taken his eyes off of city issues and that he has to be able to "walk and chew gum" simultaneously.
"We’re here today talking about how to keep our police officers safe. Last night, I was in the Bronx at a town hall meeting for three hours talking about local concerns," said the mayor. "We’re going to work on all of the issues of the city but guess what? There was a national election two weeks ago and it has huge ramifications for New York City and for millions of New Yorkers."
And with New Yorkers' worries about Trump, many voters could be appreciative that de Blasio is speaking out, said Greer.
"Is this politically the right thing for the mayor to be doing? We'll see," said Greer.
Sherrill said the last two weeks have represented a return to political form for de Blasio, who appeared to have lost his touch during a bruising and embarrassing feud with Gov. Andrew Cuomo and a bungled attempt at national influence by withholding an endorsement from his former boss Hillary Clinton.
"He was beginning to get an image of someone who is politically bumbling after a year or two of making moves that either didn't help or were counterproductive," Sherrill said. "This critique of Trump is sharp and aggressive and appealing to his key constituents."
And the mayor's harsh words for Trump seem to be reassuring some supporters.
Assetou Sy Trarore, a leader in Harlem's community of African immigrants and founder of the Malian Cultural Center, said she was feeling "very confident" and thankful after the mayor said the city would not cooperate with federal mass deportation efforts.
"Everyone is calling me saying: 'Will they deport me now that Trump is president?'" said Sy Trarore. "Now I know what I can tell people. Now we can breathe."