Will These Women Run Against Eric Adams?
Christine Quinn and Jessica Ramos float their trial balloons
Two women appeared on CNN yesterday to castigate Mayor Eric Adams for his warning that the migrant crisis could “destroy” New York City. “These individuals who are incredibly brave, who fled violence and poverty we can’t even understand,” said Christine Quinn. “They’re not going to break this city.”
Jessica Ramos, a Queens state senator, agreed.
“I was tremendously disappointed to hear the mayor of New York, who is supposed to be our greatest cheerleader in New York, sound so defeatist,” Ramos said.
Quinn, unlike Ramos, is not an elected official—but she used to be. The 10th anniversary of the 2013 Democratic primary was several days ago. That race is remembered for producing Bill de Blasio’s come-from-behind victory as well as months-long media circus that culminated in another Anthony Weiner sexting scandal. Before all that, there was Quinn: the trailblazing and domineering City Council speaker, the very first woman (and openly gay person) to hold the post, Michael Bloomberg’s heir apparent. In those days, she was, by far, the most famous person named Christine Quinn, a politician formidable enough to have her own New York Magazine cover. When I covered the mayoral race for the New York Observer, I was the most junior staffer, and a senior reporter scooped up most of the Quinn for mayor events because it was assumed, in the early months of 2013, she was going to win.
Quinn finished a distant third behind de Blasio and Bill Thompson, the former city comptroller. Her campaign, despite a New York Times endorsement and the support of several large unions, collapsed for several different reasons. As the early front-runner, she was the target of sustained attacks from the other candidates. An “Anybody but Quinn” super PAC with ties to de Blasio hammered her for months, along with well-financed animal rights activists who were furious that she wouldn’t ban horse-drawn carriages from Central Park. She was the lone woman in the field and undoubtedly suffered for it.
The greatest source of her failure, though, was her closeness to Bloomberg. She was the speaker who did his bidding and temporarily overturned the city’s term limits law, to furious opposition, in 2008. She was a cautious liberal, willing to bottle up legislation that Bloomberg didn’t like, including a bill to mandate paid sick days for all city employees. She was far less willing to confront Bloomberg’s NYPD for its abuse of stop-and-frisk. The 2013 primary was very much a change election; the Democratic electorate was tired of Bloomberg’s technocratic centrism. The rapid gentrification of the city—the rising rents, the new public works that only seemed to benefit wealthy neighborhoods—alienated many left-leaning voters. White liberals and working class Blacks wanted no part in a Bloomberg redux. De Blasio, with his economic populism and biracial family, was far more compelling to them. Once Weiner imploded, de Blasio was well-positioned to shoot to the top of the pack.
A decade later, de Blasio is gone and his preferred successor, Adams, seems to kick up a new controversy every week. His former Department of Buildings commissioner was indicted on bribery charges yesterday. He has struggled to manage the influx of migrants and angered the Biden administration with his talk of imminent catastrophe. He has demonstrated little interest in day-to-day governing. Talented bureaucrats continue to leave the municipal government. He chased out his first police commissioner and his housing czar. Unlike de Blasio and Bloomberg, he has failed to produce any new policies or initiatives of great significance. There is no version of universal prekindergarten or Brooklyn Bridge Park for Eric Adams.
Quinn is now the well-regarded CEO of WIN, the homeless shelter network that serves, primarily, women and children. She has been gone from politics long enough that some voters will have probably forgotten her Bloomberg era controversies. At 57, she is still six years younger than Adams.
Can Quinn run against Adams and win? Can Ramos? What if they teamed up?
All of it is more plausible than it sounds.