At event with three real mayors and many would-be mayors, one man drafts Ray Kelly

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Michael Bloomberg and Ray Kelly. ()
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Nearly everyone who wants to replace Michael Bloomberg was in midtown this morning, listening to the current mayor and two former mayors talk about their experiences.

Former comptroller Bill Thompson, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, current comptroller John Liu and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio were all there. Publisher Tom Allon, an officially declared candidate, was not there, but labor leader Greg Floyd, who is considering entering the race, was.

So was Ray Kelly, the New York City police commissioner, who has never expressed any interest in running, but still tops public opinion polls as a theoretical candidate.

After the breakfast, which was organized by the Association for a Better New York, Kelly spoke to a few people, including one man who handed him and business card and said, "New York City needs you," and "If you decide to run, call me."

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Kelly smiled politely, took the card and left. He didn't stop to talk when I approached him and he ignored a few other people who called out to him.

Back in the ballroom where they held the event, I found the guy who had given Kelly his card.

He is Paul Kurland, an attorney who helped defend the New York Times after they published the Pentagon papers. He was glad to talk about the idea of Mayor Ray Kelly.

"I think he knows the city," Kurland said. "I think he understands how to keep the city safe and I don't think he is overly ideological or political."

"I think he would make a much better mayor than some of the traditional politicians," he said. "I think Bloomberg was that way and I think he is that way also."

Kurland said he didn't find political experience to be as important a qualification for mayor as management experience.

"I think Mayor Bloomberg was freed by his wealth in some ways, where he just was above a lot of things that other politicians needed," Kurland said. "He could go directly to the people for support because he had the money to pay for it, reach out to the people. Whereas other politicians needed to, as you would say, ask for the support, some would say pander, to different constituencies. I don't think Ray Kelly came up through that system."

Kelly was a police officer and held every rank in the department before serving as police commissioner under David Dinkins, then returning to the job in 2002 under Bloomberg.