Take Two: After Thompson Drops Out, Teachers’ Union Backs de Blasio

Michael Mulgrew announces the UFT's endorsement of Bill de Blasio.

Michael Mulgrew announces the UFT’s endorsement of Bill de Blasio.

The city’s powerful teachers’ union voted today to endorse Bill de Blasio for mayor–after snubbing him during the Democratic primary in favor of Bill Thompson.

“Mr. Thompson has asked us to support Mr. de Blasio because he knows–as well as Mr. de Blasio knows–the city can no longer afford to go in the direction which it has been going for way too long,” United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew told reporters gathered tonight at the union’s Lower Manhattan headquarters after its delegate assembly had formerly voted for the second time this election season.

The vote came after Mr. Thompson officially exited the race Monday, despite insisting as late as Sunday that he would not concede until all remaining votes were counted. And–while some reports had suggested that Gov. Andrew Cuomo had played a key role in brokering the deal–Mr. Mulgrew claimed full credit tonight.

He began his remarks telling reporters about a previously undisclosed meeting he’d convened with Mr. Thompson and Mr. de Blasio last Saturday morning.

“It was this simple: What do we need to do for what is in the best interest of New York City? … And in the end, the decision was made that what was in the best interest of the city was to unite the Democratic party to make sure that a Democrat become the mayor of New York City and not the Republican nominee,” he said of the meeting. “On Monday, you saw a result of that conversation.”

Sources told Politicker that Mr. Mulgrew previously favored Mr. de Blasio but had ironically gone with Mr. Thompson after concluding that the public advocate–who was then far behind in the polls–had no real shot at assembling a winning coalition. So Mr. Thompson earned the nod, along with a sophisticated get-out-the-vote operation and millions of dollars in UFT-funded independent expenditures.

At the time, Mr. de Blasio seemed to take the loss personally. The two men memorably had a fallout in August when Mr. de Blasio reportedly claimed the snub had left him “unburdened” by labor unions and Mr. Mulgrew snapped back forcefully. “I am surprised he would have found our endorsement such a potential threat to his independence,” Mr. Mulgrew quipped then, “particularly since he was on my calendar so many times earlier this year, many of our staff members thought he had an office in our building.”

But the ill will seems to have dissipated, with Mr. de Blasio–still riding high after his commanding win–letting bygones be bygones.

“This endorsement for me–aside from any politics–this is personally very, very important,” said Mr. de Blasio, who talked about his appreciation for public school teachers and vowed to heal the “wound” he said had developed during the Bloomberg administration between parents and teachers. “We’re Democrats, we’re progressives … and I knew that we would find a way to  work together again.”

Later, Mr. Mulgrew said that there had been little discussion among the union’s delegates about what had gone wrong with Mr. Thompson, whom Mr. Mulgrew had vowed to “make” the city’s next mayor.

“Look, I’m a New York City teacher. You come in with a lesson every day. Most days it works out. Some days it doesn’t,” he said dismissively, noting that Mr. Thompson’s numbers had jumped considerably after the union’s endorsement and that the union’s attention had been divided between 54 simultaneous campaigns.

And despite being forced to realize his earlier bravado was overstated, Mr. Mulgrew once again dripped confidence when asked by Politicker whether he thought his union could make Mr. de Blasio mayor in the general election that is now underway.

“I absolutely believe that that is what we’re gonna do. No matter what Joe Lhota throws at us,” he said with a grin.