Though he’s way behind in the polls, John Liu is confident he will be elected mayor of New York City.
“I’m confident we can win this,” the candidate said in a sit-down with the Chronicle editorial board. “I wouldn’t be in this race if I didn’t think I could win.”
Even with the latest polls putting Liu in fifth place — 10 points behind former Congressman Anthony Weiner — the city comptroller said he is enjoying the campaign ride.
The campaign also remains badly scarred by a nearly four-year federal investigation into his fundraising four years ago that led to the felony convictions of a fundraiser and former campaign treasurer.
Liu was never brought up on charges and has denied ever knowing about the illegal acts.
“They wiretapped my phone for 18 months and I’ve come out clean,” he said. “It’s like a witch hunt for which there is no witch, but I can now say that I have been thoroughly investigated and am fully vetted.
“At least my numbers have been consistent, consistently low,” Liu joked. “After having one of the worst things that could happen to a candidate or an elected official happen to me, I am happy to still be here.”
Though poll after poll has shown Liu’s chances of being mayor as slim to none, the Flushing resident said that there is an important detail to consider when looking at poll numbers — the polls don’t take into account a very essential demographic.
“If you look at these polls, they are only broken down by black, Hispanic and white voters,” Liu said. “The Asian-American population makes up 13 percent of New York and they are not being counted. There are 12 languages and dialects that make up this community so it is impossible for pollsters to gauge this properly. I expect about 90 percent of the Asian vote, so when you take that into consideration, it puts me much higher in the polls.”
Liu estimated that his actual support is 20 percent, putting him in second place, just behind City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan).
What’s more, the Campaign Finance Board denied Liu his matching funds that would have totaled $3.5 million. Liu currently has $1.3 million in campaign donations to use for the remainder of the campaign. Though this has taken an enormous chunk out of his budget, Liu said he will continue forward.
“I’m having a great time,” Liu said before the CFB denial was announced. “I’m having an absolute great time. You have to understand that I grew up as an immigrant here having nothing to do with politics. The other candidates grew up with politics and spent their careers in politics. I majored in mathematical physics and being someone who never imagined running for office, let alone being elected to anything, was a great privilege.”
Liu said that he makes a point to attend all of the mayoral forums held by civic associations, political groups and others.
“I haven’t missed a single forum and I don’t think any of my opponents can say the same thing,” he said. “It’s part of the responsibility of the candidate to show up to these forums and to be assessable and accountable.”
Out of all of the mayoral candidates, Liu is probably the most outspoken and critical of the stop-and-frisk police policy that allows officers to stop and search individuals they deem suspicious.
While many of the Democratic candidates have called for reforms to be made to the practice, Liu is the only candidate who would like it repealed.
“The defenders of stop and frisk will say that it’s a valuable policing tool and I agree with that,” he said. “But they also say that it is stop, question and frisk as if there is any questioning going on and there is none. If you went outside and asked those who have been stopped if they were questioned or if they even knew why they were being stopped, they’d say no.”
Mayor Bloomberg and Police Commissioner Ray Kelly have cited stop and frisk as a main cause of the decrease in crime over the years. Liu disagrees.
“While they say that murder rates are much lower than the 1990s, I don’t think that can be the basis for comparison,” Liu said. “If you look at the first term, there were 587 murders and 97,000 stops. By 2011, the murder rate had fallen to 515 and yet the number of stops skyrocketed to 700,000 stops. There is no correlation there. If you look at 2012, the murder rate plummeted to 416 but guess what? So did the number of stop and frisks. There is no correlation. The numbers don’t figure out.”
In addition, Liu called for changes to the faulty 911 system that has crashed several times this year.
“We have to plug all of the gaps,” he said. “We have to go back to the people who use it and consult with them and figure out where the kinks are. I don’t think any of the users have been involved in the planning of this system. We can’t keep cutting out human presence.”
All and all, Liu said that he is happy to be in the running and that, as far as he sees it, this is still an open race that anybody can win.
“When I was elected to City Council, it was a big deal for me, and then to be made comptroller was that much more amazing,” Liu said. “It is an amazing thing to me that I’m here in this position, running for mayor. Who could’ve guessed when I was younger that I would go from being a manager at Price Waterhouse Cooper to running for mayor of the greatest city in the world? I am happy to be here and every additional day that I get to do this is another cherry on top.”