When the city council elects a new speaker in January, minorities are likely to hold an unprecedented five-vote majority in the 51-member body. The last time the council picked a speaker — when Christine Quinn was elected in 2006 — whites still held a one-vote majority.
In Tuesday’s primary, three minority candidates won the Democratic nomination for seats currently held by white council members. Margaret Chin defeated incumbent Alan Gerson in the downtown district that includes Chinatown, Deborah Rose defeated another incumbent, Kevin Mitchell, in Staten Island and Kevin Kim won the Queens seat previously held by Tony Avella, who ran unsuccessfully for mayor. Assuming they defeat Republican challengers in November (hardly a certainty, particularly in Kim’s case), their election will change the ethnic dynamic of the council.
No minority council member has ever been elected speaker or majority leader, the top position in the council before the 1989 charter change that created the speaker post.
While some of the primary contests involving council members like Maria Baez and Thomas White Jr. are still up in the air, whoever wins will be a minority. John Liu was the first Asian elected to the council, but Chin and Kim’s nominations, combined with primary win by Liu’s successor Yen Chou, could give Asians three seats in 2010. Four gays (all white) will also be part of the new council.