Mark Green was sitting in a soft leather chair inside his loft near Union Square on the night of Aug. 24, with the door to his study wide open and campaign aides standing by, idly.
“If you saw me this morning and evening, at 77th and Lex and 86th and Lex, shleppily handing out my literature,” said Mr. Green, “I did not look like the so-called front-runner. No one has voted yet, and I’m respectful of that.”
This almost aggressive modesty from Mr. Green is not incidental. It is typical of the campaign he has run for public advocate this year, which has so far been extremely successful in neutralizing his two biggest challenges: his preexisting reputation as a press hound and a self-promoter, and the related fact that he is the best-known, best-established candidate in the field of four.
Capitalizing on the name recognition stemming from his unique qualification among the contestants—his two full terms as public advocate—Candidate Green has been reserved, almost to the point of invisibility.
It seems to be working O.K. Mr. Green has hovered around 35 percent, with civil liberties attorney Norman Siegel in the high double digits, Councilman Bill de Blasio in the high teens and Councilman Eric Gioia in the single digits.
If Mr. Green can get 40 percent in the four-way primary, he avoids a runoff and faces only token opposition in the general.
While the other campaigns have all acknowledged, with various degrees of on-the-record candidness, the need to take Mr. Green down before primary day, it hasn’t happened. This is, in part, because no one candidate wants to be the one to do the other non-Greens a favor by engaging in a mutually harmful mud fight with the leading candidate. But it’s also because, thanks to Mr. Green’s passivity, it’s simply been hard to get any purchase.
As one Democratic insider supporting Mr. de Blasio put it, “You can’t attack what’s not there.”
The fact that Mr. Green is opposed by an imposing array of current and former officials, and by an impressively long list of former colleagues and aides, seems, for now, beside the point.
Among the elected officials he should not expect help from: City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, both of whom will presumably be interested in running for mayor in 2013; Michael Bloomberg, whose disdain for the office Mr. Green helped shape was demonstrated by his decision, along with Ms. Quinn and the Council, to cut its operating budget by 40 percent.
Hank Sheinkopf, who consulted for Mr. Green on his 2006 campaign for attorney general, is now advising Mr. Siegel. Mr. Green’s “body man” on his 1998 Senate race, Michael Oliva, is also working for Mr. Siegel, under the Sheinkopf umbrella.
Jonathan Rosen, who worked on Mr. Green’s 2001 mayoral campaign, is now a founding partner of Berlin-Rosen, a public-relations firm currently employed by the Working Families Party, which is backing Mr. de Blasio.
(Stu Loeser, a researcher on that 2001 Green campaign, is now a spokesman for the mayor, who is sympathetic toward, if not openly supportive of, Mr. Siegel.)
Among the former officials who have been in close contact with Mr. Green and are now opposing him: Ed Koch, who was his longtime co-panelist on NY1’s Wise Guys segment; Mario Cuomo, whose son beat Mr. Green in the 2006 attorney general primary; and Freddy Ferrer, who lost to Mr. Green in the 2001 primary for mayor.
For Mr. Green, it’s all to be expected.
“When you been in as many campaigns as I have, winning and losing, when you’ve been in as many policy fights as I have, winning and losing, you bet there are some grumpy opponents who won’t want you back,” he said. “And I understand that.”
He added, “Then you have some people who don’t want you to win, not because you’ll do a bad job, but because they’re worried you’ll do a good job and be in their way in the future. Not that I’ve said anything about the future.”
(That’s the 2013 mayor’s race he wasn’t referring to, in case you missed it.)
Bill Cunningham, who ran Mr. Bloomberg’s successful 2001 campaign against Mr. Green, said, “Someone is going to have to attack him, knock him down, punch him in the nose.”
Mr. Cunningham also said that Mr. Green “has done nothing in this race to remind people why they don’t like him.”
He sounded almost admiring.