Most of us remember Mayor Michael Bloomberg barely defeated his Democratic rival Bill Thompson by five percent in that embarrassing re-election nail-biter. Bloomberg folks will still tell you 2009 was a tough year for incumbents. However, after beating back a $100 million effort aimed at Thompson, and even the top Democrat in the White House flirting with Bloomberg, one would think Thompson's impressive showing makes him the hands-down favorite next year with Bloomberg out of the way.
Increasingly, the election appears to not be favoring Thompson, but instead City Council Speaker Christine Quinn who would be NY's first woman mayor and the city's first chief executive that is openly gay.
Yes... it's still early, but momentum has to go to Quinn.
Yes again... with NY's campaign finance system, all of the major candidates will have exactly the same amount of money.
First the money race, and of course whether we like it or not, the campaign war chest points to formability.
Twenty-two months in advance, Quinn is the first candidate seeking the office to already raise the maximum amount allowed for the primary. Quinn's team says she has raised more than $4.9 million and, with the public financing she expects her coffers will therefore top out at $6,729,000.
That's some statement, amid speculation there will be a run-off between Quinn and Thompson.
Quinn does have an interesting background. I have interviewed her on NY1 News many times over the years, and have been impressed, literally watching her go from an outsider to one of the most powerful positions in the city.
In politics, you don't maneuver as far as she has with luck.
Like Obama, Quinn really was a community organizer, starting her career helping low-income tenants stay in their homes and protecting affordable housing. She was an aide to City Councilman Thomas K. Duane, the first openly gay member of the City Council and went on to serve as executive director of the New York City Gay and Lesbian Anti-Violence Project. She went to the City Council in 1999, and a representative for the West Village, Chelsea and Hell's Kitchen neighborhoods on Manhattan's West Side, Quinn was elected speaker in 2006. Quinn passed her first major test. She had assistance from the speaker before her, Gifford Miller, but being elected speaker is a feat itself getting around the landmines of racial politics, and lining up support with county leaders.
Her platform for mayor will also almost be identical to the accomplishments listed on her website. Quinn has negotiated on-time city budgets, helped reducing government spending, avoided tax hikes and prevented firehouse closings, teacher layoffs and cuts to key services.
Now, her Achilles heel:
She is attacked as being too close to Mayor Bloomberg, and that is surely to be an issue during the campaign. One difficulty to be illuminated is she supported Bloomberg changing term limits and seeking his third term.
Quinn has been criticized for leaving her progressive roots, but in fairness, I counter: Try working with 50 other duly-elected council members, all with their own agendas, and any council speaker must co-function with a mayor. Some may want it, but a speaker cannot be a flame thrower.
Quinn will be able to make a strong case that she fights for what she believes in. Few remember that like the Rev. Al Sharpton, Quinn was also out there on the front line.
According to the New York Times, Quinn has been arrested for civil disobedience at least half a dozen times. She protested the killing of Amadou Diallo, the African immigrant shot by police in 1999, and has also been arrested at the St. Patrick's Day parade with other gay Irish-Americans barred from participating.
Quinn has also shown herself to be one the most compassionate officials in city government, often coming to the aid of numerous non-profits programs that help teenage mothers. I have watched it firsthand, and she does it often and quietly without the cameras.
Quinn will also have plenty of establishment support.
Former Mayor Ed Koch is already in her corner. Dismiss Koch's backing at your own peril. Remember how Koch was able to assist Bob Turner -- now a freshman GOP congressman in that Democrat-dominated district to replace Anthony Weiner.
Some say the strong working relationship with Bloomberg can be the kiss of death for Quinn. Only time will tell. She has been distancing herself from Bloomberg -- like siding with Governor Cuomo on no longer fingerprinting families who receive food stamps. Bloomberg wants to keep the policy in place.
It's not too late for Thompson, but if the former comptroller is running, it's time to get serious, start making some waves, and prove just how badly he wants it.
If not, maybe, just maybe, one of the other Democrats will step up. Can you believe a Republican has been mayor of NYC for 20 years? (If you don't count Bloomberg changing his party.)
But 2013 is looking like Christine Quinn's year.
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