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On the Heels of Rival's Memoir, de Blasio Looks to Humanize Himself

by Connor Ryan
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Bill de Blasio.

Flickr

Bill de Blasio ties his family life to public schools in personal campaign video.

Leading mayoral candidate Christine Quinn’s story of alcoholism and bulimia – personal battles conquered with, well, patience and fortitude – has been weaved, bound and is currently sitting on display at bookstores across the city.

Experts say the content and release timing of “With Patience and Fortitude: A Memoir” are strategic political moves, aimed at setting up Quinn to gain widespread name recognition and, thereby, support.

Medical professionals and those who suffer from such illnesses hope the book serves as a beacon of empowerment – an exemplary “come-back kid” sort of story.

But Bill de Blasio, the city’s public advocate and one of Quinn’s Democratic rivals, is not looking forward to reading. In fact, last month, de Blasio sent a letter to New York City’s Campaign Finance Board arguing that the costs of promoting the book should be considered political spending and count against a cap imposed by campaign regulation.

The board has not yet responded to his letter, a spokesman for the board said Tuesday.

Now, de Blasio is looking to connect with New Yorkers in the same way Quinn may be able to with her book. He posted a three-minute YouTube video on his campaign's website Monday.

Talking points and policy positions aside, de Blasio spends the video discussing how he became interested in politics, the divorce of his parents and his current family life. While soft music loops in the background, de Blasio is seen sitting in his backyard, walking through Prospect Park with his wife and eating cereal with his family at their kitchen table.

“My dad first left home and then my parents got divorced, so pretty much by the time I was seven, it was clear things were breaking a part,” de Blasio says in the video.

He goes on to talk about his father’s service in World War II, and his subsequent struggle with alcohol saying, “Every time I saw him he was drunk. It was just the reality. He had these demons that he couldn't’t beat.”

After having grown up in a family that “unfortunately fell apart,” de Blasio says he was concerned about beginning his own family. He was anxious about whether a marriage with Chirlane McCray, an African American activist and poet, would work. (The two have been married for 19 years and have two children.)

“I really go out of my way to make sure I can drive Dante to school as much as possible,” de Blasio said of one of his children as the script switched to public education. “My staff understands that that’s something I try to keep sacred.”

At the end of the video, de Blasio makes one final appeal to parents.

“A lot of us starting out, we had to figure out how to be parents,” he said as he joined his family in preparing dinner. “We had to figure out child care and we had to figure out which schools and I think one part of my sense of social mission is to try and help parents do what they do because it’s so difficult.”

When asked about why the video was created in the first place, Rebecca Katz, a press officer for de Blasio’s campaign, said: “We thought it was important for voters to learn a little bit about who Bill is, and obviously, his family is a huge part of that.”

If elected, Katz said de Blasio would be the first mayor serving while also having a child in the New York City public school system.

“That’s a big deal,” she said.

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