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OPINION: Post Mortem: Christine Quinn

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. File photo

 

Brooklyn Daily Eagle

The Democratic primary is a thing of the past, and the only contest now is De Blasio vs. Lhota. If you talked to most political observers a  year ago, however, Quinn was considered the front-runner and the overwhelming favorite to win the nomination. She was way ahead in big-name donations and she had the support of much of the city’s political and business elites, not to mention the de facto support of Mayor Bloomberg. So what happened?

It can’t be her political platform. Her positions were very similar to that of the other Democratic mayoral hopefuls. All of them ran on variations on what might be called the standard New York liberal Democratic platform. It’s doubtful that, as some of her supporters hinted, the fact that she was a woman worked against her. A long line of female officials in all levels of government and from both parties, from Hillary Clinton to former New Jersey Governor Christie Whitman, from Brooklyn’s Assemblywoman Joan Millman to Queens Borough President Helen Marshall, proves this not to be true.

Whatever it is, there are a lot of people out there who don’t like Christine Quinn. During the campaign, there was even an organization called “Anybody But Quinn.” Did you ever hear of a group called “Anybody but Bloomberg” or “Anybody but de Blasio?” The last time a political figure raised such enmity may well have been George W. Bush.

In the end, what was once her greatest strength may have been the reason for her downfall: Her closeness to Mayor Bloomberg and the city’s political and business “heavy hitters.” In his first and second terms, Bloomberg was basically a moderate. In his third term, Bloomberg took positions that appeared more and more mean-spirited. Inevitably, people remembered that Quinn had been one of the main proponents of changing the laws to allow a third term for Bloomberg.

Also, the struggle over Long Island College Hospital made many people remember the struggle over St. Vincent’s Hospital. I don’t believe that “Quinn killed St. Vincent’s”—the issue is very complicated. But the fact is that she approved the deal to sell the bankrupt hospital’s property to the Rudin development team with only a freestanding emergency room to replace the hospital.

Also, there’s the issue of Quinn’s management style. As soon as Quinn became speaker, she fired 61 Council employees. Clearly, this is not someone who seeks to “win friends and influence people.” When the New York Times charged that Quinn pulled funding from a Queens councilwoman’s budget item because that councilwoman didn’t credit Quinn enough in a press release, Quinn didn’t deny it.

That same Times article quoted a former campaign donor as saying about Quinn, “She screamed at me for 10 minutes, uninterrupted, and used the ‘F’-word at least 20 times. I was just so startled, I didn’t know what to do.” This reporter never saw Quinn scream, but observed that whenever a reporter asked a question, she answered in an extremely loud voice and gave an overly long answer, giving much more information than was actually needed.

In an interview with the Politicker blog, Quinn replied, “I’ve never been embarrassed about the fact that I’m pushy and aggressive.”

The fact is, however, that by the end of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani’s last term as mayor, an increasing number of New Yorkers were tired of having a Republican attack dog in office. Quinn’s defeat in the primary shows that New Yorkers don’t want a Democratic attack dog, either.

 

September 23, 2013 - 9:30am


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