New York City council member Christine Quinn is leading the Democratic primary to succeed Michael Bloomberg as mayor of New York this November, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released late last month. Nearing the 40% target required to avoid a runoff election, Quinn’s standing is greater than that of the three other Democratic candidates combined. With Public Advocate Bill de Blasio reportedly at 14%, 2009 mayoral candidate William Thompson at 11%, and Comptroller John Liu at 9%, New York City is on track to elect its first female and openly gay mayor in 2013.
Though Quinn is already the first gay woman in a position of power as the current Speaker of the New York City Council. In a city like New York — a metropolis that launched the modern gay rights movement, plays home to the annual Pride Parade, and recognizes same-sex marriage as of last July, homophobic discrimination isn’t likely to be Quinn’s biggest challenge. In fact, the aforementioned poll confirmed that New York City voters are more comfortable with a female, gay, or lesbian candidate, or a candidate who’s married to a gay or lesbian, than with a business executive as mayor. In this case, Quinn might be battling for the better part of the LGBT community’s vote, given that the Democratic runner-up Bill de Blasio reportedly married a former lesbian. His wife, Chirlane McCray, recently spoke about her time as a womanizer in the 1970s — 20 years before she met de Blasio plus another twenty since she’s been married to him — but the irrelevance of her public statement today dubbed it as a ploy to gain LGBT support, especially since de Blasio has been criticized before for using her ethnicity to appeal to the African American constituency.
Quinn’s central challenge will be in setting herself apart from the current mayor. An endorsement from the Republican-turned-Independent may cause nearly half the city’s registered less likely to vote in Quinn’s favor, according to a September 2011 poll. But the lawsuit she filed against Bloomberg in 2011 over his homeless policy might prove that they differ enough. On the other hand, their close alliance alliance despite their opposing ideologies demonstrates the kind of bipartisanship America’s governing body swears by.
Quinn was next to be pitted against Republican frontrunner and current Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, but it’s still unclear whether or not he’s officially in the running. However, former head of the MTA Joe Lhota made his candidacy official earlier this year. As a supporter of marriage equality and an advocate for pro-choice policies, the Republican candidate has some things in common with Quinn, who campaigned for same-sex marriage and then married a woman herself, as well as passed legislation to stop the harassment outside abortion clinics.
Moving forward Quinn’s best bet is to push aside the less-than-threatening opposition from the Republican party, and work on toning her campaign. If she can present New York with a defined and ardent agenda, she might be the first lesbian to run the city.