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Meanwhile, Quinn kept herself in the public eye. She brought a plate of waffles to City Hall in 2004 to tweak the mayor's refusal to take a public stance on marriage equality. And she could be counted on to hold press conferences and attend rallies whenever an LGBT New Yorker was physically assaulted. "From the day my career began, as a housing organizer to the council, my focus has always been to get things done," she tells the Voice. "To deliver to the people I was serving."
Her detractors point to 2006, when her peers elected her speaker, as the moment when she sold out her progressive base. Quinn went from having an adversarial relationship with the mayor to what Duane describes as "working with him when she could, improving what he put forward." Others consider it, more prosaically, as sucking up to a man whose endorsement would help smooth her way into the mayoralty. Two years after becoming speaker, Quinn led the council in overturning two voter referenda on term limits, enabling Bloomberg—and City Council members—to run for a third term.
That single action is likely to define her career, and it exposed fault lines in how people view her. If she does lose the primary or a run-off, it will certainly come back to haunt her. "Among everyone I know, the first thing they say is, 'She betrayed us on term limits,'" said LGBT rights activist Louis Flores.
Quinn defends her term limits decision as "the best decision for the city. I made a decision in 2008-2009, at a moment in time that was the worst economic crisis we've faced since the Great Depression, to give voters consistent leadership or make change," she says. "I know some New Yorkers are not able to vote for me. I respect those who feel strongly. I respect their decision. I hope others will look at the rest of my issues."
Term limits, however, are only the first item on the list of progressive grievances. Detractors call her record one of increasingly cynical maneuvers with one eye toward the city's business elite and the other on right-of-center voters. "She's used the fact that she's a woman, that she was an activist, that she is a lesbian, to justify this doctrine that it's OK to move to the right," says Donny Moss, a filmmaker and animal rights activist who has spent more of his time and money fighting Quinn than anyone else in town. Moss believes she has turned into another opportunistic politician who happens to be gay. "She has betrayed the LGBT community when expedient," he says.
The biggest cloud hanging over Quinn's mayoral campaign remains a secret slush fund that enabled her office to dispense cash either to reward or punish other councilmembers. By appropriating millions to fictitious organizations, her office was able to funnel one-quarter of the total to her own district, with the rest going to projects put forward by her allies—and none to her enemies. Quinn has said that as soon as she was made aware of the slush fund, which was in place before she took office, she tried to stop it. But seven months after the scandal was uncovered, Quinn led the council in voting to let the mayor to run for a third term, a move some saw as a stall so she could rebuild her base and live to run another day. A formal probe cleared her of any wrongdoing, but the investigations and mud-slinging continue—as do the City Council's payments to the law firm handling the matter.
Quinn's close relations with the police department are similarly cited as proof of her lack of ideological purity and how, on key issues involving police-community relations, progressive critics believe she is on the wrong side every time. Those ties date back to her years at AVP, but it is her recent support of stop-and-frisk that has drawn the most heat. Tensions in minority communities were already high over the policy, which allows officers to search citizens without formal probable cause. (Statistically, those citizens are mostly African-American and Hispanic young men.) And when the police shot 16-year-old Kimani Gray on March 9 in East Flatbush, igniting a series of violent street demonstrations, Quinn's slow response infuriated her would-be liberal base.
Gay men of color are just as affected by stop-and-frisk as anyone else, notes Fordham University political science professor Christina Greer. "Even though the face of the LGBT community in New York City is white men, that's not the makeup," she says. "If you're black and gay, stop-and-frisk may be a primary issue." Unlike her three Democratic rivals, Bill de Blasio, John Liu, and Bill Thompson, Quinn has refused to make a blanket condemnation of stop-and-frisk.
Then there's condom-carry, an issue particularly troubling to those fighting the ongoing AIDS epidemic. As the Voice has reported, the city vigorously supports and promotes condoms through the Department of Health, but allows police to arrest alleged prostitutes found to be carrying them. Transgender women complain that the NYPD targets them simply because of the way they're dressed. Quinn reportedly sent staffers to a key meeting on the issue instead of attending herself.