The battle between Mayor Michael Bloomberg and the powerful teachers’ union entered a ghoulish new phase on Monday, as the mayor equated the union’s coveted endorsement to the “kiss of death,” and the union slammed a nod from Mr. Bloomberg as worse than a zombie attack.
The Democratic candidates for mayor have been courting the United Federation of Teachers and the union’s president, Michael Mulgrew, for months, but Mr. Bloomberg said this afternoon he thinks they’re making a grave electoral mistake.
“It’s almost a kiss of death,” the mayor said of the union’s coveted endorsement, which Mr. Mulgrew believes will be decisive in the race. “I don’t know what goes through voters’ minds, but maybe they understand if the UFT wants it, it ain’t good and you don’t want that person.”
Mr. Bloomberg, who has clashed extensively with the teachers’ union in recent years, including over a recent teacher evaluations deal, argued that the last time a UFT endorsement helped a candidate win was two decades ago back when David Dinkins was elected into office.
“I don’t know that you have to worry about that,” Mr. Bloomberg said of the possibility of UFT delivering City Hall to their preferred candidate, as Mr. Mulgrew has boasted the union can do.
Without referring to particular candidates, the mayor, speaking at a Monday afternoon press conference touting the city’s graduation rates, also said the next administration should follow in the footsteps of his education policies.
“We’d become the laughing stock of the country if we had to roll back everything that has worked so well,” he lamented.
But Mr. Mulgrew shot back at the mayor–arguing that Mr. Bloomberg’s endorsement is, in fact, the toxic one.
“Dozens of candidates in local and citywide elections have won with UFT backing in recent years, and many are seeking it this year, while running away from Bloomberg and his record,” he said in a statement. “Right now most candidates would rather be the victim of zombie attack than get a Michael Bloomberg endorsement.”
The UFT is set to make its highly-anticipated endorsement on Wednesday, with former Comptroller Bill Thompson and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio seen as the leading candidates for the influential nod.