Sunday, December 21, 2014

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NY1's Grace Rauh and Courtney Gross examine what's shaped the lives of mayoral candidates Bill de Blasio and Joseph Lhota in this two-week special series.

The Contenders: For De Blasio, Family Is Front And Center

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In Part 5 of NY1's series, "The Contenders," Grace Rauh looks at Bill de Blasio's family, whose members are front and center in his campaign.

Chirlane McCray met her husband, Bill de Blasio, in 1991 at City Hall, where they were both working for Mayor David Dinkins. On that day McCray was in charge of writing a press release announcing Dinkins' endorsements in a number of City Council races. De Blasio was supposed to have the information she needed.

"Bill de Blasio was the guy," McCray recalls. "And everyone was surprised I didn't know who he was, so someone walked me over there to introduce me to him."

After their first encounter, De Blasio started hanging out in the Dinkins press office, where McCray was stationed.

"He was obviously trying to get my attention and flirting a little bit," McCray remembers.

It worked. McCray had been a lesbian, but she started dating the towering staffer. When they married in Prospect Park three years later, McCray was pregnant. She says they were eager to start a family.

But the relationship was not without its hurdles. Not only had McCray been an open lesbian, but she and de Blasio were an interracial couple.

"I was not exactly what they (de Blasio's parents) were expecting," McCray says. "t took his mother, in particular, a long time to accept the relationship. It wasn't really until Chiara was born that she settled down and said this is going to work."

It was important to de Blasio to be a good father. And from the beginning, McCray says, he took it seriously. But he did not change as many diapers as she says would have liked. And she admits that it took some time for him to figure out how to balance the demands of his career with his new role as a parent.

Their children, Chiara and Dante, are now a central part of their father's campaign. Dante starred in his father's breakout TV ad. And Chiara is in her own ad, and introduced her father before his victorious primary night speech. McCray is deeply involved as well, even editing her husbands speeches. She bristles, though, at the suggestion that she and de Blasio are pushing their children to be involved.

"First of all, we didn't put them out front," she says. "I mean, for us to be together is so natural to us. It is inconceivable that they would not be part of this campaign.

As for the role McCray would like to play should she be the city's next first lady? She says she hasn't given a lot of thought to it.

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