Citigroup's Ray McGuire appears to be moving closer to running for mayor of New York.
He has held court with several high-profile political strategists recently, and at least one city political power player seems to be working the phones on his behalf.
McGuire, one of the most prominent black executives in finance, is vice chairman of Citigroup and chairman of its banking, capital markets and advisory business. He has been speaking with senior New York political advisors about a possible run for the city's highest office, according to people familiar with the matter.
Hank Sheinkopf, a veteran strategist whose previous clients include former President Bill Clinton and former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg, met with McGuire before the state locked down due to the coronavirus pandemic.
While he declined to comment on whether he's met with McGuire, Sheinkopf did tell CNBC that he believes the Citi executive could stand a chance, particularly if Mayor Bill de Blasio leaves the city in financial distress after his term ends in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic and ongoing citywide protests. He insisted, though, that it's going to be difficult for anyone new to the New York political scene to create a movement needed to win.
"Do I think that he's up to the task? It's hard to create a political organization in New York City, nobody knows what the future looks like," Sheinkopf said. "Could he make the case? The answer is he can make the case. Could he be a level of calm while we're in the middle of the storm? The answer is he could be."
A few Democratic Party advisors have told McGuire that he has a chance of winning the race next year if he can demonstrate how he has been a leader on Wall Street. They believe the city will looking for a mayor with a strong track record of experience and leadership, especially as it recovers from the economic devastation from the spread of Covid-19.
Since March, the state of New York has seen more than 2 million unemployment claims. The city is expected to start their phase one reopening plan on Monday. De Blasio has been slammed by critics for reacting too late in shutting down the city, including schools.
McGuire's allies in the business community push his professional achievements whenever CNBC has recently asked about what they think of McGuire possibly running for mayor. They notably do not rule out him getting into the race.
"Ray McGuire is an outstanding professional with a sterling record of achievement," Vernon Jordan, a senior managing director at asset management firm Lazard, said in an email. "His academic achievements are inspiring for young people and the integrity and character Ray demonstrates in his professional endeavors are exemplary for his peers and mentors. He has a bright future ahead." Jordan, who is also black, is a longtime business and political power broker, and he has strong ties to the Clinton family.
As of earlier this week, these people familiar with the matter noted that McGuire had yet to officially make a decision on whether he would run. Others that are reportedly possible contenders for mayor include City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Comptroller Scott Stringer and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.
Though he's never run for political office, McGuire has been a donor to Democrats, including a recent stint on Sen. Kamala Harris' presidential finance committee. He is now a supporter of apparent Democratic nominee Joe Biden.
Some of the discussions with political strategists, a person noted, have been linked to Keith Wright, the chair of the New York County Democratic Committee. Wright has been a player in New York politics for well over a decade, including a stint working with David Dinkins, when he was the Manhattan borough president. Dinkins eventually went on to be mayor of New York in the early 1990s.
Wright, after publication, denied that he was organizing meetings for McGuire but noted he's known him for 40 years.
"I have known Mr. McGuire for 40 years. I have not set up any meetings for him at all. In addition, I am not supporting any mayoral candidate at this time," Wright said.
The people describing McGuire's ongoing decision process declined to be named as they have all been made in private.
After laying out what CNBC learned about McGuire, his Citi spokeswoman did not deny it and declined to comment further.
All of these moves suggest that McGuire, at least unofficially, has been pushing forward with exploring a run for mayor and he's gone much further than just discussing the idea among friends, as CNBC first reported earlier this year. At the time, McGuire's press representative said "talk about him considering a run for mayor of New York City is pure speculation."
De Blasio has come under fire while he wraps up his second term as mayor of New York, including on the handling of protests that have rocked the city. The outrage across the country on racial injustices and police abuse, came after the death of George Floyd, a black, unarmed man who died after a Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for nearly nine minutes.
The mayor has often sided with the New York Police Department that has been accused by progressive leaders of acting, in some cases, too violently against the protesters.
McGuire himself has sided with police in the past, co-signing an open letter last year with almost two dozen other black leaders that defended the NYPD after some officers were verbally attacked and doused with water. Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, who is also considering getting into the mayoral race, also signed the letter.