Perception equals reality, at least in the behind-the-scenes race for City Council speaker. Since council members want to angle for all the goodies they can get for themselves and their districts, a candidate who looks like a winner can get the backing he or she needs to win, while an “also in the running” label is the kiss of death.
Thus the office of Joel Rivera was pretty peeved at the statement in Friday’s New York Sun that the youthful Bronx councilman “cannot be counted out” of the speaker’s race, along with Queens councilmembers Leroy Comrie, Melinda Katz, and David Weprin and Brooklyn’s Lew Fidler. While it’s nice not to be “counted out,” it’s nicer to be one of the “favorites” and the Sun bestowed that title only to Manhattan’s Christine Quinn and Bill de Blasio of Brooklyn.
A local political operative has also told Power Plays that Quinn and de Blasio are the frontrunners, but Rivera’s aide Angel Audiffred says that’s just smoke blowin’. “Regardless of who becomes mayor, the speaker should be a minority,” he says, and since the Queens organization is probably reluctant to give up the juicy committee chairs that Weprin (Finance) and Katz (Land Use) hold, it’s unlikely to go to bat for Comrie, leaving Rivera as the sole non-white candidate. At only 26, Rivera would be even younger than when Gifford Miller took the speaker’s post. But in his meetings with the members, Audiffred says, “the response that (Rivera) gets is always very positive.”
So who’ll win? Beats me. Who cares? Well, the Speaker is positioned to be the check-and-balance on the mayor, so that’s important—especially if it’s a second-term mayor who’ll never face a city electorate again. What’s in it for you? Hey, if you happen to be a city council candidate, the race for speaker can mean money in your till. So far, political donations by the frontrunners are as follows: Weprin $58,355; Katz $52,445; Quinn $49,452; de Blasio $25,585; Rivera $13,300; and Comrie $5,500.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on October 14, 2005