Why Quinn hit the wall

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn began this year as the prohibitive frontrunner in the Democratic mayoral race.

Now, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio goes into the general election without needing to first dispatch his runner-up.

Quinn finished up on primary night with just 15.5 percent of the vote, having lost her own Village / Chelsea / Hell’s Kitchen Council district, winning the votes of just 16 percent of women voters, and finding herself bested by de Blasio among gay, lesbian and bisexual voters by 47 percent to 34 percent.

In primary night comments to Gay City News, The Villager’s sister paper, Assemblymember Deborah Glick and Rachel Lavine, the Village’s Democratic State Committee member, suggested that homophobia and misogyny were at play. Women and L.G.B.T. voters, they argued, were inattentive to the importance of having one of their own at the head of the table.

Meanwhile, a New York Times poll highlighted reactions to Quinn from some voters that included derogatory terms often aimed at women in power — including “petty,” “mean,” “bossy” and “argumentative.” And surrogates for de Blasio, they said, most prominently the candidate’s wife, Chirlane McCray, were all too happy to play on those attitudes.

McCray’s comments about Quinn, in which she suggested the speaker does not understand challenges facing ordinary women in New York, such as “care of children at a young age,” have been hotly debated — in no small measure because the Times’s Maureen Dowd initially misquoted the exchange, stripping it of its full context. McCray’s statement, in Dowd’s corrected version, is less inflammatory than as originally rendered, though it does nevertheless manage to paint Quinn as something of the Other. Ironically, McCray herself previously identified as lesbian.

These points, however, obscure far more salient lessons from the collapse of Quinn’s campaign. The most significant is that her close ties to Mayor Bloomberg — and particularly her role in allowing him to seek a third term — proved fatal among Democratic primary voters. On this point, the speaker undoubtedly lulled herself into complacency, if not outright denial due to Bloomberg’s ability to win in 2009 despite the outcry over the term-limits extension, and to his remarkably high approval ratings after 11 years in office.

There were warning signs, however. Though he spent more than $100 million in that campaign, the mayor beat then-Comptroller Bill Thompson, who waged a lackluster campaign, by less than 5 percent. Quinn herself, facing a primary challenge that year from two opponents fueled in large measure by the term-limits flap, barely eked out a majority.

The escalating controversy over the New York Police Department’s controversial stop-and-frisk policy — which has greatly aggravated tensions between the mayor and progressive Democrats — added to Quinn’s Bloomberg problem. Since the spring of 2012, at least, she has often stood with critics of stop-and-frisk. Yet, Quinn insisted she would be happy to keep on Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.

The mixed message on police-community relations speaks to a broader problem the Quinn campaign had in communicating its message and her record. de Blasio repeatedly hammered her on her delay in embracing paid sick leave legislation, largely affecting lower-wage employees, and in watering it down when doing so.

Similarly, in all likelihood, Quinn lost the gay vote because many believed that other, larger issues trumped the leadership she could be expected to deliver for the community.

Ultimately, the die may have been cast when Quinn O.K.’d the Council’s extension of term limits in 2008 — that Democratic voters inevitably settled on a candidate they trusted to provide a clear departure from the Bloomberg years.

A version of this editorial first appeared in Gay City News.

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6 Responses to Why Quinn hit the wall

  1. You are certainly correct about the Bloomberg/Quinn 3rd term debacle. I'm a gay Democrat — voted for Quinn 2 times, but voted for Kurland in 2009. And DeBlasio in 2013. I know I am very fortunate to truly believe I live in a city where I don't have to vote for someone just because of their race, sex or sexual orientation. Now I'd draw the line at voting for a Republican, particularly in this national environment.

  2. Quinn supported the NYU expansion. That's why she lost our vote.

  3. There is a long list of Quinn's Bad Acts beyond those cited here, all of which drove voters away from her. She didn't lose because of identity politics. She lost big because voters saw that she was a tool of those (particularly the mayor and deep-pocketed developers) who think of themselves first and who do not have the larger public interest at heart. Trickle-down is a failed public policy. But Quinn bought it hook, line & sinker and thought that would get her to the top at City Hall. What was actually seen by the public was a politician without a core. Hence her utter failure to win over NYers.

  4. For those of us who have been on the "inside" of NYC politics truly know what a disgusting bully she is. For her to get bulldozed in the Village, Chelsea, and HK says a ton. It has absolutely nothing to do with being a woman. She is petty. She is mean. She is bossy. She is argumentative. And there are 20 more horrible personality traits I can list here. The Quinn camp can spin this however they want. She lost.

    • So "inside" that you're unable to state your name here.

      Bloomberg is also petty, mean and bossy. If you argue against those traits in any Mayor, you are arguing against someone qualified to be Mayor. Those traits can be put to good use, but she put them to unDemocratic use. The continued focus on them, instead of straight up discussion of policy choices in regard to Quinn cannot be said to be anything but a double standard.

  5. I don't get it.
    Do my comments about Glick and Silver's inability to protect women in the workplace,
    make me:
    1.) misogynist,
    2.) anti-gay,
    3.) anti Semitic?

    Get real, Glick. Out of touch is out of touch. Inability to focus is inability to focus.


    For the record, anyone who argues about a "bossy" , "mean", "argumentative" Christine Quinn to me?? Those were the pluses for me. She got it done. Positive, Mayoral traits. But she gave in to corporate and Mayoral personal interests, and abdicated her District.

    Chris Quinn was our badass, but she gave it away to someone else for a title.

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