Trujillo’s Exit: What it Means and Who It Helps

Progressives lost their candidate, and an opening emerged for other contenders.

That didn't last long. Photo Credit: Trujillo's Facebook page.

That didn’t last long. Photo Credit: Trujillo’s Facebook page.

Ken Trujillo shocked the city’s political class Wednesday when he announced that he was withdrawing from the mayoral race. You may be wondering: Why does it matter that a guy who few voters had heard of dropped out? A few reasons.

  • The city’s progressives, as well as supporters of traditional public education, no longer have a clear candidate in this race. Though a lot — a lot — was unknown about Trujillo’s priorities, he appeared to be the most progressive of the bunch. He wanted to end stop-and-frisk. He wanted to abolish the School Reform Commission. He wanted body cameras for police. Former city solicitor Nelson Diaz may seek to fill that progressive void, but he is expected to have a harder time raising sufficient money to compete than was Trujillo.
  • Trujillo’s departure is also good news for two potential mayoral candidates: City Councilman Jim Kenney and City Controller Alan Butkovitz. Kenney theoretically now has more room to pitch himself as the progressive candidate, and Butkovitz could sell himself as the guy for supporters of traditional public schools. That’s only if they jump in, of course. Will they? Kenney told us after Trujillo’s announcement, “I’m still in the same situation. I still consider myself in the ball game, but I haven’t made a decision yet.” Butkovitz, meanwhile, seemed slightly closer to running Wednesday, saying, “The kind of people that Trujillo was attractive to and those constituencies, we share those constituencies. It improves the landscape, but it really depends on an awful lot of people. This is not a silver-bullet situation.”
  • Those same dynamics could create an opening for another candidate altogether. Sources say Trujillo is already looking for a candidate to run in his stead, and his campaign reportedly raised more than $400,000, which he could use to support his favored contender through “independent expenditures.” (That means he could spend in excess of the city’s campaign contributions as long as he didn’t coordinate with the campaign.) A Trujillo spokeswoman also tells us that he is urging Alba Martinez, the former director of Congreso, to run for mayor. (Trujillo chaired Congreso’s board for 24 years.) City Managing Director Richard Negrin may also be back in the mayoral mix now. And then there’s Sam Katz 
  • In the meantime, though, Trujillo’s departure is clearly good news for the candidates who definitively are in the race: State Sen. Anthony Williams, former District Attorney Lynne Abraham, and Diaz. Trujillo, who is privately wealthy, was not considered a “first-tier” candidate such as Williams (who has party support and favorable racial math going for him) or Abraham (who has name recognition going for her). But Trujillo had the potential to move up from the second tier if he donated a few million dollars of his money to his own campaign, which he had indicated was a possibility. Without the threat of a self-funder in the race, Williams, Abraham and Diaz don’t have to worry about raising as much money. Diaz, in particular, gets a small boost because he is also now the only Latino in the field in a city where people tend to vote along racial lines. It’s probably the best news of all for Williams, though, simply because he is the presumed frontrunner.