Bill Thompson Leaps Into Election Season With Pseudo-Campaign Launch

Bill Thompson greets people outside of the Flatbush Avenue-Brooklyn College subway station.

Bill Thompson greets people outside of the Flatbush Avenue-Brooklyn College subway station.

Bill Thompson’s mayoral campaign has watched rival after rival host high-profile campaign kick-offs with an entourage of press at every rinky-dink stop along the way. But Mr. Thompson, who announced his electoral plans over two years ago in a New York Times interview, couldn’t really do the same.

Yesterday, however, his campaign chose the next-best option: launching a carefully-scripted, five-borough tour that had the look and feel of an official kick-off.

And Mr. Thompson, a former city comptroller who nearly unseated Mayor Michael Bloomberg four years ago, insisted that this is his year.

“No matter what you did in ’09, it was hard to get a message out,” he told Politicker on a 3 train between events. “This is a more  level playing field in 2013, so it is easier  to be able to get a message out and that shows up some place, that somebody pays attention to. That is one huge difference–and it’s a good difference, a very good difference.”

Admitting he now wakes up earlier than he did four years ago and has little time for reading books or watching television, Mr. Thompson has tried to dispel the image of the passive, listless campaigner he acquired during his last Gracie Mansion bid. Former Mayor David Dinkins accordingly touted Mr. Thompson’s presence on the trail at one of yesterday’s stops.

“People would ask me my candidate and I would say, ‘Bill Thompson,’ and this is going back several months, and they would say, ‘Oh is he running?'” Mr. Dinkins said. “Nobody asks that question anymore. He’s definitely running.”

The day began before 7 a.m. with Mr. Thompson greeting Staten Island ferry passengers. After a quick ride over to lower Manhattan, Mr. Thompson and his handlers shot uptown to the legendary Sylvia’s restaurant in Harlem, where Mr. Dinkins and Congressman Charlie Rangel declared their support for Mr. Thompson. After that, on to the Bronx, where Borough President Ruben Díaz Jr., another one of Mr. Thompson’s pivotal allies, stumped for him.

Chatting gracefully in Spanish with the elderly Bronx Latinos that Mr. Thompson hopes to pack into his winning coalition, Mr.  Díaz schmoozed on Mr. Thompson’s behalf at two senior centers, demonstrating that his endorsement would mean at least a little more than a familiar face on a campaign mailer.

It was all part of an effort to demonstrate to voters–and the media–that the Thompson campaign, a little spunkier than last time, should be taken seriously.

Adding thump to Mr. Thompson’s campaign was his wife, Elsie McCabe Thompson, a former chief of staff to Mr. Dinkins. Handing out palm cards and conversing with voters, Ms. Thompson said she helps raise money for her husband and will be a much more visible part of his campaign going forward. She accompanied Mr. Thompson to all of his stops, including a pizza shop in Queens Village (where a teenage Andrew Cuomo once earned a few extra dollars), and the last destination, a subway stop minutes from his alma mater, Midwood High School.

Yet residents at campaign stops did not always know who Mr. Thompson was or–if they did–struggled to definitively describe him.

One woman charging by on Flatbush Avenue, a health administrator from Canarise, Brooklyn, lamented the state of the city to Politicker after a Thompson volunteer handed her a palm card. The woman, named Dionne, was the rare person to recall that Mr. Thompson almost defeated Mr. Bloomberg.

When asked about what she remembered most from Mr. Thompson’s 2009 bid, she continued to rail against the current mayor, ignoring the former comptroller.

“What I didn’t like about it is that Bloomberg got the opportunity to run for a third time,” she explained. “I don’t think that was fair.”

Bill Thompson Leaps Into Election Season With Pseudo-Campaign Launch