Boasting a hefty campaign chest and far outpacing any of her rivals in the polls, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn on Sunday formally launched her bid to become the first woman to lead New York City, long known for its brash mayors with outsized personalities.
A veteran of city politics, Quinn’s biggest challenge within the Orthodox community is her stance on moral issues which is antithetical to Torah values, but she has tirelessly courted the Jewish vote over the past year.
Announcing online that she’s in the race for mayor of the nation’s largest city, Quinn said she wanted to give middle- and working-class New Yorkers the same opportunities generations of her family got when they came here.
“I’m running for mayor because I love this city. It’s the greatest place in the world,” she said in a video, before starting what she called a walk-and-talk tour intended to take her to every neighborhood in the city before the Democratic primary in September.
Her first stop was the upper Manhattan neighborhood of Inwood, where she was surrounded by supporters carrying signs that read “Christine Quinn for Mayor” and wearing baseball caps with her initials on them.
Before the walk, Quinn told reporters, “I’m running today and I’ll stack my record against anybody else’s in this field. … I balance budgets on time, and I had the wisdom in the first three years I was speaker, when there were surpluses, to not spend that money.”
Her attempts to meet the people led to a classic New York City moment.
She shook hands with everyone — people on the street, workers in a diner and even a bedraggled-looking man sitting on a sidewalk bench.
“Hi, I’m Christine Quinn and I’m running for mayor,” she told the man, who looked up at her, seemingly puzzled.
“I need some change,” he replied as she searched her pockets, saying, “I don’t have any.”
The carefully choreographed trip was not publicized in advance so only handpicked reporters tagged along in a press van. But it was enough to catch a heckler still upset for Quinn supporting Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s 2008 controversial decision to change the law to allow him to seek a third term.
“Why did you push Bloomberg for a third term?” an elderly man who told Politicker his name was Herbert Goldman shouted in Forest Hills, Queens.
“Let me just finish here and I’ll come over and talk to you for a second, OK?” Quinn responded.
“Hurry up,” was Goldman’s curt reply.
After Quinn concluded her speech, Goldman loudly reminded her that he was “waiting.” When she came over, Goldman harangued the speaker for several minutes about the evils of overturning a voter referendum, ignoring her repeated interruptions.
“Absolutely not, that’s not true,” Quinn finally said when Goldman stopped talking. “I made a decision at that moment, with many of my colleagues, to give voters the opportunity in the worst economic crisis we’ve had, to make a decision to either keep some of us and not keep others. And that’s what happened and I respect that, for some people, like you sir perhaps … the decision I made will make it impossible for you to vote for me for mayor.”
“Yes that’s true,” Goldman said. “And I think some other people are going to feel the same way.”
Others upset at Quinn come from the left wing of the Democratic party also. The New York Post quoted a “progressive Democrat” who is trying to set up a super PAC to pay for negative campaign ads aimed at Quinn.
“You’ll see some spending before the end of the month,” the Democrat said.
A former tenant organizer, Quinn, 46, has been on the City Council since 1999 and its leader since 2006. The position has afforded her considerable exposure going into the crowded field of candidates vying to succeed the term-limited Bloomberg.
A Quinnipiac University poll late last month gave her 37 percent of the Democratic vote, a tad under the 40 percent needed to avoid a primary runoff. Her opponents each got less than 15 percent. Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans more than 6 to 1 in the city, though that hasn’t translated into Democratic success in a mayor’s race since 1989.
Quinn has generally been perceived as likely to get the backing of Republican-turned-independent Bloomberg, and with it support from business leaders.
In office, Quinn leads 50 other council members and largely controls what proposals come to a vote. Under her leadership, the council has made it tougher for immigration officials to deport people being released from city jails or police custody and barring employers from discriminating against unemployed applicants.
Her position as Speaker of the City Council has sometimes put her at odds with the Orthodox community, particularly in regard to her stance on legislation adversely impacting moral values.
But she has waged a soft comeback with the community, visiting Boro Park for low-key events where politics is explicitly forbidden in instructions given ahead of time and having surrogates stand in for her.
On Thursday evening, Quinn paid a shivah call to the Williamsburg home of the parents of Raizy Glauber, a”h, who was tragically killed along with her husband, Nachman, last Motzoei Shabbos.
Following the visit, Quinn went to the site of the crash and said that she is working on installing a traffic signal on the corner of Kent Avenue and Wilson Street, where the accident took place.
Her likely Democratic opponents include former City Councilman Sal Albanese; Public Advocate Bill de Blasio; Comptroller John Liu; and former Comptroller Bill Thompson.
Republican contenders include former Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Joseph Lhota; Tom Allon, a publisher; billionaire businessman John Catsimatidis; and George McDonald, the head of a nonprofit that helps the homeless.
Former Bronx borough president and federal housing official Adolfo Carrion, a former Democrat who is now unaffiliated, is running on the Independence Party line and seeking Republican backing.
With reporting by The Associated Press.