Bill de Blasio Briefly Returns to the Campaign Trail

Bill de Blasio speaking to a voter in Harlem this evening.

Bill de Blasio speaking to a voter in Harlem this evening.

Mayoral front-runner Bill de Blasio finally returned to the stump tonight, greeting voters who lined up for the chance to shake his hand at a subway stop in Harlem.

After more than two weeks of carefully choreographed endorsement events, it was his very first meet-and-greet with voters since securing the Democratic nomination. And it was a very different scene from his early days, when the breezy candidate would hang around, chatting with voters.

Tonight, Mr. de Blasio had the presence of a bona fide celebrity, with a pack of reporters, cameramen and passersby stopping to stare at the man who has been transformed–in just few short weeks–from “that tall guy” with the obscure title of public advocate to a national household name, frequently featured on cable TV.  Underscoring the new dynamic, his staff instructed those who stopped to say hello to the back of a line, which snaked in front of a CVS at the corner of 116th Street and Lenox Avenue.

“Anyone wanna meet Bill? The line’s right down there,” staff shouted as people gathered on the sidewalk. “Come meet Bill de Blasio, folks! Around this way if you wanna meet Bill … Line over this way.”

During their brief encounters, voters offered congratulations and asked about a host of issues, including affordable housing and whether Mr. de Blasio, who is dominating in the polls, was open to retroactive pay raises for city employees. One woman requested metal detectors at bus stops, another for help securing insurance for a sister who has leukemia.

“I need help,” she pleaded.

“I need a job, so you gotta make it work,” another said.

Charmaine Dixon introduced Mr. de Blasio with her seven-year-old daughter, Destiny, and, like others, said she was thrilled to usher in a new direction at City Hall.

“You’re not a bully. We’ve got a real mayor now!” she told him, as cameras flashed. Later, Ms. Dixon, who said she’d noticed the crowd while returning from the vet with her dog said Mr. de Blasio “definitely” had her vote.

“We don’t have a bully anymore. We got Mr. de Blasio. He’ll work with us. I’m for better education, school, housing, everything,” said Mr. Dixon, who explained that she was deeply frustrated with Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s policies, especially stop-and-frisk.

Cynthia Tucker was equally excited, telling the candidate she worked for the city’s hospital system and desperately needed a raise.

“You’re gonna be mayor and we need you!” she told him. “I am so thankful to have y’all in our life. But you know you gotta be in that seat ’cause I know your door is open … Tuesday we’ll be out there!”

Ella Edwids, 71, had a different sort of question, asking Mr. de Blasio when she’d get to meet his famous son, Dante. “I’ll meet him some day!” she vowed after the encounter.

“You know I am!” she shouted when asked if she was voting for the Democrat. “He’s a wonderful man and I think he’s going to help the lower-income people. So many people don’t have a home, don’t have food to put on the table. I think he’ll help a lot.”

But after less the 15 minutes, Mr. de Blasio was whisked away, escorted by his large staff and security detail into a large, black waiting SUV.

There, he sat waving at a throng of cameramen, reporters, local residents and children, who gathered at the corner. Among those left behind was a woman named Marion, who said she was deeply disappointed she hadn’t had the chance to say hello.

“I wish I did!” she did. “I just love his philosophy. I think he’s out there. We’re ready for change. We’re struggling and we work hard and we need that.”