Mayor Bill de Blasio was elated by the news Thursday that Attorney General Letitia James had dropped out of the 2022 gubernatorial race — seeing her exit as a chance to jump into a less crowded Democratic primary field with only one other progressive, according to sources.
“They’re on cloud nine!” said a source close to de Blasio about the lame-duck mayor and his political advisers.
While de Blasio hasn’t made his run for governor official, he created a candidate committee and is expected to make the announcement in January.
“I’m going to be going around the state of New York, starting next month, talking to the people of this state,” de Blasio said on MSNBC Thursday when “Meet the Press” host Chuck Todd asked if he was going to rethink his gubernatorial race after James bowed out.
“I want to stay in public service. I want to address the issues I’ve been focused on, fighting income equality, getting more kids access to better education. I have a lot of energy to do that and I’ll have a lot more to say in the coming next few weeks,” de Blasio said.
Shortly after James broke her unexpected news, de Blasio attended a ribbon-cutting at Brooklyn Bridge Park.
“He did seem like he was on cloud nine. He was very warm and friendly,” said a source who attended the event.
For months, de Blasio had envisioned a clearer lane for himself in the crowded field if James dropped out, sources told The Post. Both de Blasio and James are longtime Brooklyn politicians with strong black voting bases and a more practical-progressive stance.
Public Advocate Jumaane Williams is further left than de Blasio and the other candidates — current Gov. Kathy Hochul and Long Island Rep. Tom Suozzi are more moderate.
“It’s undeniably an advantage for Bill de Blasio to have one, not two rivals running from the left in this race,” said Stu Loeser, a political strategist who served as former Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s press secretary.
Bruce Gyory, a Democratic strategist with Manett Phelps and Phillips, predicted a bruising showdown between de Blasio and Williams.
“He’s probably on cloud nine with Tish James dropping out of the race, but in reality he’s facing two storm clouds.
“I think what he’s missing is he’s going to have a very bitter war for who is the true progressive candidate with Jumaane Williams. And Jumaane has a lot of things to shoot at him with, for example how the George Floyd protests were handled, the state of affordable housing for the poorest of New Yorkers, etcetera,” Gyory said.
“That’s one theater of battle — the other is this cloud of ethics [problems] and to voters outside of New York who don’t know him, that’s not a great way to introduce him to the race,” said Gyory.
On Wednesday, following a successful lawsuit by the New York Times, de Blasio officials were forced to release a 2018 letter from the Conflicts of Interest Board that found the mayor violated the City Charter by pushing developers with pending municipal projects for donations to his political group.
De Blasio, who was a no-show at a Brooklyn Democratic Party holiday event Thursday night, received tepid applause when the party chair, Assemblywoman Rodnyese Bichotte Hermelyn, thanked him for his contributions as mayor.
Election lawyer Howard Graubard summed up the sentiment of many in the crowd when he spoke about de Blasio’s gubernatorial chances with James dropping out of the race.
“God parting the Red Sea wouldn’t open a lane for de Blasio,” Graubard said.
“The last mayor of New York City to go into higher office was DeWitt Clinton. And that’s without getting personal,” Graubard said. Clinton led the Big Apple in the early 1800s and then become the sixth governor of the Empire State after a short stint as the lieutenant governor and a failed presidential bid.
And while Williams made a brief, early appearance at the party confab, Hochul was the real belle of the ball.
“It is a true honor to announce my absolute full endorsement of her for the highest seat in the state — Gov. Kathy Hochul,” Bichotte Hermelyn told the crowd to raucous applause as she held the front-runner’s hand aloft like a boxing champ.
The assemblywoman, who’d previously backed James, endorsed Hochul shortly after the attorney general said she planned to run for re-election to her current position.
With James out of the race, de Blasio and Williams will compete for her supporters.
A recent poll had Hochul at 36 percent, James at 18 percent, Williams at 10 percent and de Blasio and Suozzi tied with 6 percent.
A spokesman for de Blasio did not return messages seeking comment.