August 8, 2013 at 1:26 pm EDT | by Michael K. Lavers
Christine Quinn seeks to be mayor of ‘all 8.4 million’ New Yorkers
Christine Quinn, New York City, gay news, Washington Blade

Openly gay New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn is leading the Democratic Primary for mayor of America’s largest city. (Washington Blade photo by Michael Key)

New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn on Wednesday said she is running for mayor because she wants to ensure New Yorkers have the same opportunities her grandparents had when they immigrated from Ireland a century ago.

“This is the greatest city in the world,” she told the Washington Blade. “I want to be mayor because I want to make sure the power and the possibility that existed for them exists in greater amounts for New Yorkers in our city and all the immigrants who are coming here every day.”

Quinn, 47, remains the frontrunner among her Democratic challengers going into the September 10 primary.

A Quinnipiac University poll released on July 29 shows Quinn leading New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio by a 27-21 percent margin among likely Democratic primary voters. Former New York City Comptroller William Thompson, Jr., came in third with 20 percent, while former Congressman Anthony Weiner garnered 16 percent.

Quinn would become the city’s first female and first openly LGBT mayor if voters elect her to succeed Mayor Michael Bloomberg in Gracie Mansion in November.

“We’re running to be the mayor of all 8.4 million people of all genders and all sexual orientations,” Quinn told the Blade, referring to a person whom she said whispered in her ear while on the campaign trail that her decision to run for mayor helped them come out. She said a man whom she hugged during June’s Brooklyn Pride had tears in his eyes. “It isn’t lost on me, the historic nature of this.”

Quinn also referenced her wife, Kim Catullo, whom she married in May 2012, as she discussed her campaign and the fact New York is a global financial capital.

“The top CEOs from all across the world, the leading international figures meet with the mayor of the city of New York,” Quinn said. “Their briefing will always talk about Christine Quinn and the wife.”

Quinn receives gay backing, criticism

The Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund; the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City; Empire State Pride Agenda and Edith Windsor, the Manhattan widow who successfully challenged the Defense of Marriage Act before the U.S. Supreme Court, are among those who have endorsed Quinn. She is also scheduled to attend two campaign fundraisers on Fire Island later this month.

In spite of this support, Quinn continues to face criticism from some LGBT New Yorkers.

She faced widespread criticism from LGBT Democrats and others in 2008 when she supported the extension of term-limits that allowed Bloomberg and other city officials, including herself, to run for a third-term. Quinn earlier in the same year also acknowledged a City Council slush fund appropriated more than $17 million to community organizations that did not exist since 2001.

Brooklyn attorney Garfield Heslop in June filed a complaint with the New York City Campaign Finance Board that asked it to investigate Quinn over more than $20,000 in contributions her campaign received from donors in Houston, San Diego and Chicago after she attended Victory Fund events in the three cities in 2011 and 2012.

Quinn’s spokesperson Mike Morey defended the campaign’s actions in a statement he sent to the Blade after news of Heslop’s complaint broke.

“The question I think really is about what I have done with my time in office,” Quinn said in response to the Blade’s request for comment on criticisms she continues to receive from Allen Roskoff, co-founder of the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club and others. She pointed out she has balanced eight budgets on time as speaker of the City Council and stopped Bloomberg from laying off 4,100 teachers. “Everyone who is running for mayor was opposed to it. They may have even gone to press conferences. They may have attended a rally. I’m the one who stopped those layoffs. I’m the one who kept every firehouse and every library open during the recession. That’s a record of results during my time as speaker.”

Quinn also criticized Weiner for referring to Republican mayoral candidate George McDonald as “grandpa” during an American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) forum in Manhattan on Tuesday.

“There’s no reason for name calling, ever,” she said. “When people in public life are speaking of senior citizens, they should do it with respect and gratitude and not in a derogatory way.”

Quinn categorized the former congressman’s campaign as a “circus” in a statement she released last month after revelations that Weiner had sent lewd text messages to women after he resigned from Congress in 2011. She stopped short of saying he should drop out of the race.

“Anthony Weiner has clearly decided to run,” Quinn told the Blade. “Now it’s a question for the voters.”

Quinn weighs in on hate crimes, Russia

Quinn, who was executive director of the New York City Anti-Violence Project from 1996 to 1999, told the Blade that as mayor she would set a goal of the five boroughs “becoming a hate crime-free city” through working with the New York Police Department’s Hate Crimes Task Force, expanding the city’s anti-bullying curriculum and partnering with faith-based organizations. Her comments come less than three months after Elliott Morales allegedly shot Mark Carson, a gay man from Brooklyn, to death in Greenwich Village during what the NYPD has classified as a hate crime.

“That’s the work we have to keep doing until we get to the place where we get to zero as the statistics of hate crimes against any community,” Quinn said, speaking to the Blade shortly after she and other officials expressed outrage over racist graffiti that defaced a statue of Jackie Robinson in Brooklyn.

Quinn stopped short of calling for a boycott of the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, over the country’s LGBT rights record. She praised President Obama’s decision to cancel a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin that had been scheduled to take place in Moscow ahead of next month’s G-20 summit in St. Petersburg.

“We all need to focus immediately on doing everything we can as Americans and as part of a larger international community to change what is going on in Russia,” Quinn told the Blade. “We’ve all got to keep pushing to make change. It’s really a life and death issue.”

Michael K. Lavers has been a staff writer for the Washington Blade since May 2012. The passage of Maryland's same-sex marriage law, the HIV/AIDS epidemic, the burgeoning LGBT rights movement in Latin America and the consecration of gay New Hampshire Bishop V. Gene Robinson are among the many stories he has covered since his career began in 2002. Follow Michael

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