How Scott Stringer went from longshot to 800-pound gorilla

how-scott-stringer-went-longshot-800-pound-gorilla
Scott Stringer and Julie Menin. (Dan Rosenblum)
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Back when Scott Stringer was running for mayor, he was a certain thing: the generally well-regarded liberal without a firm base, significant establishment support, or a realistic way forward.

Now, as a candidate for city comptroller, the Manhattan borough president is the one taking up all the room, picking up endorsements (now that he's not a threat to the other mayoral candidates) from a broad array of Democratic officialdom and killing off the hopes of the lesser-known contenders. 

NY1 reporter Grace Rauh's apt Stringer hashtag, on learning this morning that City Councilman Domenic Recchia was dropping out, was #willanyonerunagainsthim.

The answer, for all intents and purposes, is no.

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It sets Stringer up for what ought to be an easy campaign, or at least one that is the stylistic opposite of his aborted mayoral bid, in which Stringer was running as the fashionable outsider, generating attention on the margins with digs at front-runner Christine Quinn for her closeness to Michael Bloomberg, endorsements from non-political celebrity friends and distinctively bold positioning on nerdy issues that no one else in the field bothered to spend much time addressing.

Stringer's mayoral rivals treated him like he was shooting spitballs.

His erstwhile rivals in the comptroller's race, meanwhile, have treated him like a Tammany Hall boss, with a union logo tattooed on his forearm and a New York Times endorsement on his forehead.

The thing is, in the down-ballot races, name recognition and organization are about all that matter. Most voters don't even know what it is, precisely, that the comptroller does: it's a technical job with heavy operational constraints.

All the would-be candidates are aware of this.

Councilman Dan Garodnick, a credible and well-funded public servant with a base in the voter-rich Stuy Town-Peter Cooper Village area, dropped out a little more than a week after Stringer's announcement. He won't face term limits on the Council until 2017.

Recchia, a sharp lawyer and accomplished retail politician who chaired the Council's finance committee, and whose initial reaction to Stringer's entry into the comptroller's race was to paint him as a big bad machine-backed bully, dropped out and endorsed Stringer today. Recchia is likely to enter the Brooklyn borough president's race.

Which means that, assuming scandal-tarred comptroller John Liu doesn't run for re-election, Stringer is it.