Council Orgy

Erasing term limits and contribution caps amid a speaker battle

While Katz has raised even more from unions than de Blasio, especially construction, police, and sanitation unions, she is also methodically attempting to secure party support for her selection. Not only did the Queens councilwoman donate $9,600 to the party organization in her home county, she is pursuing Bronx boss Jose Rivera, donating $14,550 to Rivera's county machine and its allies. Several of these Bronx donations occurred in October, when she also hit the $4,950 legal limit for Fernando Ferrer, the mayoral candidate backed by Rivera. Katz has turned the Land Use Committee she chairs into a springboard for major contributions, with developers like Durst, Walentas, Fisher, Muss, Rudin, and Brodsky maxing out. Rivera covets that committee for his son Joel, one of the half-dozen council votes he can influence.

But there is no certainty that Katz will get the support of Queens boss Tom Manton, who controls the biggest bloc of votes, 12 of Queens's 14. Manhattan's Christine Quinn has long been wooing Manton, pumping over $4,000 into the campaign kitty of Congressman Joe Crowley, Manton's favorite son, as well as another $2,750 to Manton's committee.

But Quinn's most interesting and prophetic donations were to Brooklyn assemblyman Vito Lopez. She gave him $3,400 in 2004, more than a year before he replaced Brooklyn Democratic leader Clarence Norman, who had to resign after his September conviction. Lopez claims to control nine of the 16 Brooklyn votes and is closely tied to Lew Fidler, a mortal enemy of de Blasio's and second-tier speaker candidate. Fidler says he was "the first" Democratic district leader to ask Lopez to run for county leader and rounded up other leaders to back him. He and Lopez may well be ready to cut a deal—with Quinn or Katz—that leverages their votes for a major committee.

But with half of Manhattan's 10 seats changing hands, de Blasio and Katz are actively trying to pick off votes in Quinn's base. Katz gave the legal maximum to two new Manhattan members, Inez Dickens and Dan Garodnick, while de Blasio's union ties are helping him with the new SEIU-backed member, Melissa Mark-Viverito.

Much of this infighting is unprecedented and thus unpredictable, but the one constant is Manton, who parlayed his disciplined delegation into two pivotal committee chairs in 2001, when he waited until the last moment and anointed Miller speaker. With Katz and two other loyal Queens members, David Weprin and Leroy Comrie, running for speaker this time, however, Manton is buffeted by new complexities and tantalizing opportunities.


Research assistance: Jessica Bennett, Ben James, Lee Norsworthy, and Xana O'Neill

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