Having made last month’s mayor’s race much closer than most anyone had expected, Comptroller William C. Thompson Jr. has been floated as a possible candidate next year for state comptroller, lieutenant governor or congressman.
Mr. Thompson, in an interview this week, made clear that he would not be interested in lieutenant governor if Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo challenged Gov. David A. Paterson and tried to enlist Mr. Thompson as a running mate — a potential ticket there has been speculation about. Nor is he all that excited about the comptroller’s race.
But he has not ruled out challenging Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, whom he described as “smart and aggressive,” in the Democratic primary next year. Mr. Thompson said he would decide on his future early in 2010.
Powerful Democrats from President Obama on down have sought to clear the field of challengers to Ms. Gillibrand to avoid a messy primary that might jeopardize her chances of retaining the seat she was appointed to by Mr. Paterson after Hillary Rodham Clinton resigned to become secretary of state.
While Mr. Thompson said that other Democrats had urged him to think about running, it was unclear from his answers whether he was seriously considering a challenge or just tweaking the White House for its belated and tepid endorsement in his mayoral campaign.
Asked if he would bow out if Mr. Obama asked him to, Mr. Thompson replied, “I think, in the end, it’s a decision you have to make yourself.”
Mr. Thompson is not a person given to second-guessing, but as he spoke in his office overlooking City Hall he reflected on his two terms as comptroller and on the mayoral race in which he finished fewer than five percentage points behind Mr. Bloomberg, who had outspent him by tens of millions.
“It wasn’t just, ‘We love you Bill Thompson,’ ” he said. “It was, ‘We’re looking for a change.’ No matter, reporters, insiders, politicians said, ‘You can’t beat that kind of money.’ The sense of inevitability that Mike Bloomberg sold — no matter what you said, it couldn’t be heard.”
“Another couple of million would have helped,” Mr. Thompson added, “but I don’t know if there was something you could do differently. I thought I was going to win by three points.”
Was Mr. Thompson’s demeanor a factor, since he failed to generate a heavy turnout among fellow blacks like Mr. Obama did last year?
“Name three candidates that generated that kind of enthusiasm in 25 years,” he replied.
Asked whether he thought Representative Anthony D. Weiner, who had been considering seeking the Democratic mayoral nomination, could have won, Mr. Thompson was unequivocal. “No,” he said.
Some of Mr. Thompson’s supporters criticized his campaign for not seizing on a blunt and, to some, racially incendiary comment by former Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani warning that the city could become a more dangerous place again if Mr. Bloomberg were not re-elected.
“Some people said, why didn’t Bill play more of a race card? But it was a double-edged sword,” ” Mr. Thompson said, arguing that any effort on his part to inject race into the campaign could have backfired.
With Mr. Bloomberg expected to appoint a commission to revise the City Charter as part of his third-term agenda, Mr. Thompson said he favored the restoration of a two-term limit for citywide elected officials, but an extension for members of the City Council from two terms to three to reduce turnover among its 51 members and enable it to focus better on long-term issues.
He also urged changes in the charter to give neighborhood community boards and the borough presidents more influence in government decisions, and to give the office of the comptroller and the public advocate budgets that would not be dependent on the approval of the mayor or the City Council.
Mr. Thompson said Mr. Bloomberg deserved credit for making budget cuts in the face of projected deficits. “On a lot of levels, he recognized the problem,” Mr. Thompson said.
He also said he believed that he gave the comptroller’s office a “much broader vision” than the one he inherited eight years ago, by “being concerned not only with the bottom line, but with the human face” of city government.