After hosting mayoral debates as well as debates for comptroller and Public Advocate, NY1 is now getting into the debate game for City Council Speaker – hosting a live forum in the Transition Tent on Thursday night.
While only 51 New Yorkers can actually cast a ballot in the race, the battle for speaker has become very public with the candidates attending forums across the city where they are politely squaring off over their differences. Last night, City Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverto played up her early support for Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, who is believed to be supporting her bid. But having a Council Speaker who is closely aligned with the mayor is a double-edged sword. While Council members may want someone who works well with the incoming mayor, they may not want a speaker who they fear will never break with the West Wing of City Hall.
Another factor in the battle is that most of the candidates are term limited out of office in four years, making them all instant lame ducks in an office where aggregating power is key. Queens Councilman Mark Weprin could actually run for re-election in four years – a fact that he is trying to play up to promote his candidacy.
But with all Council members facing term limits eventually in their tenure, they're living in a political equivalent of "Logan's Run" – the science fiction film where people are vaporized when they turn 30. Many Council members would probably prefer electing someone who will be gone in four years – giving them the chance to become speaker themselves.
While the public doesn't have the ability to vote in the race, Thursday's debate will give them the chance to learn more about the people who want to be the second-most powerful public official in the city. It's a process that is often carried out behind closed doors so it could be illuminating. The campaign season isn't over just yet.
The debate will be airing at 7 p.m. and repeated at 10 p.m. A special post-debate show will run from 8 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.