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Could Chancellor Klein be eyeing a move to City Hall?

If a small group of consultants gets its way, Chancellor Klein could make a move from Tweed to City Hall next year when term limits push Mayor Bloomberg out of office.

A group of eight political consultants is exploring the prospects for a Klein mayoral bid, reports Elizabeth Green in today’s Sun. Although DOE spokesman David Cantor says the chancellor isn’t planning to run for mayor, Klein himself hasn’t told the group to count him out, Green reports, and the group members have concluded that he would have a good chance of winning should he enter the race, which so far has attracted only candidates that many consider uninspiring.

With Mayor Bloomberg’s interest in changing the law to allow himself a third term roundly criticized by even his own staffers, a Klein mayoralty could ensure the continuity of the last seven years of Children First school reforms as well as bring the DOE’s emphasis on accountability to other city agencies.

Is Klein qualified to run and serve? Absolutely. His New York City-born-and-bred pedigree is impeccable, from his childhood in a Queens housing project to his years at Bryant High School to his brief stint as a math teacher before becoming a successful lawyer who vanquished Microsoft. He was briefly the CEO of a multinational corporation. And he’s helmed the Department of Education since 2002 — a managerial task greater than the mayoralty of most American cities. The biggest difference between Klein and Bloomberg before he became mayor is the size of Klein’s bank account — but with Bloomberg’s backing that disparity would be easy to overcome. Plus, Klein’s likely competitors aren’t millionaires, the Times reports today, making his own wealth more significant.

Could he win? That’s a bigger question. Mayor Bloomberg is quite popular, but as Green notes in the Sun article, the chancellor has the lowest opinion rating of all city officials; a Quinnipiac University poll this summer gave him only a 44 percent approval rating, with 37 percent disapproving. Some in the city are already marking off days until the DOE gets new leadership: the New York City Public School Parents blog recently added a “Remaining time for Bloomberg/Klein administration” countdown clock, for example. Were Klein to pursue a mayoral bid, his critics’ gloves would come all the way off, and many who are frustrated by recent school reforms and the tone with which they were implemented would surely mobilize against him. Still, Klein’s numbers have improved since last year, and given his prominence, it’s only natural that many New Yorkers have already formed strong opinions about him.

Of course, there’s always the chance that the chancellor could depart the city before the mayor’s term runs out, despite his assurances that he doesn’t plan to. We reported in July that John McCain’s education platform bore unmistakable signs of Klein’s influence, and an article in Roll Call, the independent source covering Congress, reminds us that Klein is likely to be considered for Secretary of Education should the Republican contender for president be elected.

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