New York’s political elite rubbed shoulders at the Javits Center in New York City on Thursday night for the annual Al Smith Foundation Dinner, the biggest fundraising event for the Archdiocese of New York, highlighted with a keynote speech from former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Potential rivals who may be flirting with a 2022 Democratic bid for Governor, took the stage together for the 75th installation of the dinner, such as Gov. Kathy Hochul, Mayor Bill de Blasio, and Tish James.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan welcomed the guests with an opening prayer, in which he remembered the late Colin Powell, who died earlier this week.
This year’s dinner was hosted by Fox’s Maria Bartiromo.
Some of the political guests were more warmly welcomed than others: de Blasio received some light boos when he was introduced.
NYPD Commissioner Dermot Shea, former Gov. George Pataki, former NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg were also in attendance — who got a massive applause and shouts of joy.
Hochul’s new secretary to the governor Karen Keogh — whose husband is a lobbyist for the prominent Albany law firm Bolton St. Johns — was seen chatting with Lieutenant Governor Brian Benjamin as well as state Budget Director Robert Mujica, who made the cut to stay on in state government, despite being known as an ally of disgraced, ex- Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Notable elected officials dined together at a table, including Queens Borough President Donovan Richards, Brooklyn City Councilman Justin Brannan, state Assemblyman Michael Cusick (D-Staten Island), along with city council speaker hopefuls — City Councilwoman Carlina Rivera and City Councilman Keith Powers.
State Assemblyman Brian Barnwell (D-Queens) and NYC councilwoman Adrienne Adams were also spotted at the event.
Condoleezza Rice, the event’s keynote speaker, took her fair share of jabs at some politicians, including New York Congresswoman’s infamous “Tax the Rich” dress.
“Actually I thought, what am I going to wear? Because you see it’s complicated, in New York, these days it’s not enough to just wear a dress that looks good, it has to be a dress that actually says something …,” she said, to laughs. “I’m a California Republican not a New York Congresswoman, so tax the rich didn’t really quite cut it.”
“I haven’t seen this many wine glasses since Governor Newsome dined at the French Laundry,” she said.
She also had fun with her frequent golf partner, former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg.
“Lately I’ve been thinking If I’m going to hang out with a billionaire, I’d like to hang out with one who’s going to take me to space,” she joked. “Maybe Bill de Blasio. Want to go for it mayor?”
She reflected on how people have always asked her what she plans to do next in her decorated career, alluding to her desire to replace Roger Goodell as the NFL’s top executive.
“You know that I’ve longed for Roger’s job … so maybe this is actually an audition in front of New York’s finest. But I already work in Silicon Valley, another place with huge egos and plenty of 20-somethings with more money than common sense,” she said. “The NFL would be a lateral move, I don’t know if that would work.”
U.S. Sen. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer was invited to join other New York pols on the dais. However, he remained in Washington D.C. on Thursday.
Just hours earlier, Schumer had endorsed socialist Buffalo mayoral candidate India Walton, encroaching on Gov. Kathy Hochul’s turf, a Buffalo native who has said she would not make an endorsement in the race to the chagrin of progressives.
“As Buffalo voters start to head to the polls this weekend, I urge them to cast their ballot for India Walton as the next mayor of Buffalo,” Schumer said in a statement from DC.
Frank A Bennack Jr., executive vice chairman of Hearst, this year’s “Happy Warrior Award” recipient, had some fun grilling de Blasio for his reputation for tardiness.
“Mayor de Blasio made it here on time here tonight, because Cardinal Dolan told him it started at 3:30,” he jabbed, to laughs, before commending the mayor’s universal preschool policy.
Bennack also addressed Condoleeza Rice as “Madam President, trying to goad the former Secretary of State into a run at the oval office.
“What a pleasure to share the dais with Secretary Rice. Many of us would like to see you back in government, Dr. Rice,” Bennack said. “Look, I realize that Madam Commissioner might be more fun such as the NFL or major league baseball — but how does this sound: Madam President,” he said to cheers. “It’s about time we’re able to say the words ‘Madam President.’”
Former President George W. Bush, who has attended many Al Smith dinners, addressed attendees at the dinner via video call, where he wore a tuxedo T-shirt and ask Americans to welcome the thousands of Afghan refugees
“I’m confident our country will welcome them and help them succeed,” he said.
The dinner, named for four-term New York Gov. and the first Roman Catholic to be elected for president Al Smith, is anticipated to raise over $7 million for the archdiocese, which the foundation said will go directly to programs.
An individual ticket cost $5,000, while tables could go for as much as $250,000.
The event is particularly lucrative for the church during election years when presidential candidates deliver speeches, a tradition that dates back to 1960 when then-senator John F. Kennedy and Vice President Richard Nixon participated.
Last year’s event, the highly anticipated 75th anniversary, was conducted virtually and featured then-president Donald Trump and President Joe Biden, a proud Catholic. Both Trump and Hillary Clinton attended in 2016 and roasted each other.