8

During the Bush era and even before that, NYC has elected mayors that were at least back then resembled the governors of states like Vermont today (they had liberal social views, but had more conservative economic positions.) However, 2010 seems to have been the year when this faded in a lot of places, including New York City. (I say 2010 because there are many examples of 2006 or so being the last year that some states elected a governor of the other party that it leans towards at the federal level, from Hawaii to Wyoming. Sometimes it happens after 2010 like in, say Colorado, but 2010 ish seems like the right date.)

Today, as of writing, PredictIt has no Republican candidates listed for mayor for New York City. Most people aren't even talking about NYC having a Republican mayoral candidate succeeding in the general election. On paper, this makes sense as the city has voted Democratic 76-23 in the 2020 presidential election, and has posted even stronger performances from 2008 to 2016. But given the history, why does it seem like the Republican candidates are being treated as if they will lose beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the definition of tantamount to election?

4
  • 1
    You might also mention that there have been mayors elected on the Republican ticket in recent history.
    – phoog
    Apr 26 at 16:42
  • Read where I mentioned 2010. I don't need to mention other cities but NYC is what I am talking about specifically. Apr 26 at 16:56
  • 3
    I meant mayors of NYC; I wasn't thinking of other cities. There was no mayoral election in New York City in 2010. Bloomberg was elected for this third term on the Republican and Independence tickets in 2009, though he was formally an independent as he had left the membership of the Republican party the year before. His term ended at the end of 2013.
    – phoog
    Apr 26 at 17:06
  • Oh, 2009 was close enough IMO. My point still holds, especially given how he was officially independent at the time. Apr 26 at 17:10
17

The real question is why were there Republican mayors at all? In the last century, exactly four men have been elected Mayor of New York City as a Republican.

It's worth noting that party politics in New York State are a bit odd in that it's one of the few jurisdictions where electoral fusion is still practiced, meaning that a candidate may be endorsed by multiple parties.¹ The first Republican mayor of the last century, Fiorello LaGuardia, ran as such a fusion candidate, and won with “a complex coalition of regular Republicans (mostly middle class German Americans in the boroughs outside Manhattan), a minority of reform-minded Democrats, Socialists, a large proportion of middle-class Jews, and the great majority of Italians.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fiorello_La_Guardia#1933_mayoral_election) He was also helped by the fact that the existing Democratic party apparatus had been damaged by the Tammany Hall scandals of the 1920s. Note that the contemporary ideological sorting of the parties was far from the case now: it's difficult to conceive of 21st-century socialists supporting any Republican candidate for any office today. During his tenure, La Guardia was closely allied with the Democratic president Franklin Roosevelt.

The next Republican mayor, John Lindsay, was a liberal Republican (a category which only became extinct with Reagan’s election in 1980). Before running for mayor, he served in congress with “a liberal voting record increasingly at odds with his own party.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Lindsay#U.S._Representative) Even so, his initial election was in a three-way race where he ran on the Republican and Liberal Party lines against Democrat Abraham Beame and Conservative William F. Buckley. He lost his re-election primary for the Republican Party, but retained the Liberal Party endorsement and returned to office for a second term. His further political involvement was as a Democrat.

Rudy Giuliani was the next Republican to be elected Mayor and he came to office during a time of high unemployment and crime (although the latter had already begun to decline under his predecessor, David Dinkins). It was his second run for mayor and in both elections (as well as his re-election run) he was on both the Republican and Liberal Party lines but not the Conservative Party which withheld its endorsement. Perceptions of out of control crime doubtless led to Giuliani’s initial success.

Michael Bloomberg, while he ran as a Republican, had been a lifelong Democrat prior to that and ran on the Republican line as much as a strategic means of avoiding the Democratic primary as any declaration of ideology. He eschewed public financing and was able to outspend any of his opponents which likely led to his success while also taking advantage of an endorsement from Giuliani in the midst Giuliani’s renewed popularity after the 9/11 attacks (his approval rating had fallen to 37% in April of 2001).


  1. In California up until the 1960s, it was not uncommon for candidates to win the general election by running in both the Republican and Democratic primaries. Earl Warren, who was later Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, won the governorship by this method. California effectively ended the process by requiring party identification on the primary ballots and then formally ended it sometime later.
4
  • 2
    So the last two have these explanations: first -- they wanted someone who was going to fix the city's crime -- second: Bloomberg was being strategic. Now those things have disappeared. Apr 26 at 21:14
  • "The first Republican mayor of the last century, Fiorello LaGuardia, ran as such a fusion candidate": It seems as though almost everyone is a fusion candidate these days. Republicans are typically also on the Conservative party ticket, and Democrats are typically also on the Working Families party ticket. Ed Koch once ran on both the Democratic and Republican ticket.
    – phoog
    Apr 27 at 3:34
  • @phoog What I did see was that no Republican has won without also being on the Liberal Party ticket. The minor parties in New York tend to act as swing constituencies and ways for candidates to signal differences from the national party.
    – Don Hosek
    Apr 27 at 3:45
  • 1
    @phoog: That's mostly because if the WFP or Conservative party endorses anyone other than a Democrat or Republican (respectively), then they might fail to make the ballot next cycle.
    – Kevin
    Apr 27 at 3:47
5

Because New York City is overwhelmingly Democrat leaning and there are enough "yellow dog Democrats" (a metaphor that literally means "people who would vote for the Democratic candidate even if the candidate were a yellow dog"), that no one without the Democratic nomination could win as a practical matter.

Of course, in extraordinary situations, or in the case of massive partisan shift in public opinion, it isn't actually impossible.

1
  • 1
    You are right. "Yellow Dog Democrats", as well as their Republican counterparts, have been increasing in number lately especially since 2010 ish. TBH, I am either a yellow dog Dem or the Rep equivalent. But the answer doesn't exactly explain why it did like 10 years ago but is all but assured to refuse to in a few months. Apr 26 at 17:16

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .