Thursday, April 17, 2014


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NY1 Political Director Bob Hardt's daily look Inside City Hall.

NY ItCH: A Semi-Private Campaign For A Very Public Job

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There are no polls, campaign ads, or rallies but the battle to become the city's second-most powerful elected official is well underway.

With the mayor's race over, the many candidates for City Council Speaker are jockeying for position, buttonholing colleagues and quietly meeting with the city's five Democratic county leaders – all in the effort to replace Christine Quinn, who is term-limited out of office.

As NY1's Courtney Gross points out, the power of the purse is also in play with candidates actually donating some of their own campaign cash to the coffers of others to help curry favor in the crowded field. Focus groups? Try focusing on the five county leaders who traditionally have held crucial sway in past fights.

Just ask Bill de Blasio. When he and Quinn were both running hard to become the next speaker in 2005, the candidates pursued very different strategies for the job. De Blasio treated the campaign almost as if he were running for the president of the Student Council, meeting with most of his fellow Council members – and even trying to win their support by having them sign their names on a pledge sheet. While Quinn also met with her colleagues, she focused much of her time on the county leaders – particularly then-Queens' Tom Manton. Guess who won?

The Council's Progressive Caucus has also been hoping to play a significant role in the race – while also pledging to create more openness in the Council's sometimes-opaque dealings. With 17 members in next year's Council, the Caucus could give a powerful boost to a candidate and several of its members who are eyeing the speakership, most notably Melissa Mark-Viverto.

Also in Mark-Viverto's corner is de Blasio, who surely remembers that the lawmaker took a stand early in the mayor's race by snubbing Quinn and throwing her lot behind his candidacy. While some are dubbing Mark-Viverto the early frontrunner in the race, it seems likely that some Council members will want to put a little distance between themselves and the new mayor and not want to look beholden to the new occupant of City Hall's West Wing by supporting his candidate.

It's a difficult race to handicap because so many things happen behind the scenes, where promises are made and alliances are sometimes quietly broken. For de Blasio, it was a race that he was lucky to have lost. Four years later, he ran for Public Advocate and the rest of his story is now recent political history. Christine Quinn, meanwhile, followed in the footsteps of her two predecessors: losing the mayor's race and heading to the private sector.

Note: I'll be taking another short break until next Tuesday. Until then, excelsior!

Bob Hardt

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