By Written by Chris Bragg and Laura Nahmias - Wednesday, February 8, 2012
As Council Speaker Christine Quinn prepares to run for mayor, the body’s first openly gay speaker retains strong support in the LGBT community — but is despised by a vocal minority who believe her politics have been far too moderate on issues from paid sick leave to the living wage bill. That dissatisfaction has been most visibly demonstrated by a group led by animal rights activist Donny Moss, who seems to protest nearly every Quinn event.
In the Council race to replace Quinn, who is term-limited in 2013, the four candidates seen as most likely to run are all LGBT identified: Yetta Kurland, Brad Hoylman, Andrew Berman and Corey Johnson. And, like Quinn herself, several are straddling the line between more moderate politics — including the more moderate politics of many in the LGBT community — and the liberal activist LGBT community, which is yearning for change after more than a decade of Quinn.
So far, Kurland, a civil rights lawyer and radio host, who did well in a three-way primary with Quinn in 2009, is the only candidate with an open campaign account. She has $19,375 in declared donations so far, including some from members of the more radical LGBT rights group Queer Rising and Marriage Equality New York’s Straight Allies director Jeremiah Frei-Pearson.
Kurland said she felt the political diversity in the field was a positive.
“I think it’s a good sign that we see diversity within the LGBT community,” she said, “it is reflective of a freedom of choice that wasn’t available to us 10 or 20 years ago.”
Hoylman — who unsuccessfully ran for Council in 2001 in Lower Manhattan and is now the chair of Community Board 2 on the West Side — has a day job that puts him at the other end of the spectrum.
He is executive vice president and general counsel at the Partnership for New York City, a pro-business group with close ties to Quinn. At the speaker’s request, for instance, the Partnership undertook a study that ended up showing the paid sick leave bill would hurt New York businesses – which ultimately led Quinn to shelve the bill. That potentially gives Hoylman a strong chance at winning Quinn’s backing.
In a statement, Hoylman suggested he would be a legislator who would bring everyone to the table.
“New York City can’t afford the dated thinking that pits business against labor,” Hoylman said. “We need to realize, for example, that workers rights, quality public education and affordable housing are smart economic policies for the city, too.”
But Allen Roskoff, president of the progressive Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club and a vocal critic of Quinn’s, said Hoylman’s day job was a real problem.
“It’s a real problem that he works for Kathy Wylde,” Roskoff said. “Kathy Wylde is an enemy of the progressive community. But nobody’s perfect and Brad Hoylman is not Kathy Wylde – that is just an element of who he is.”
Hoylman says he did actually publicly support the living wage bill — though others question how actively he actually pushed for it. Hoylman, like Kurland, is a member of the board of governors of the Jim Owles Democrats.
It’s also widely rumored that Community Board 4 chair Corey Johnson, a 29-year old who rose to fame in the early 2000′s as the country’s only out gay high school football captain, will run. He’s one of the city’s youngest community board chairmen and was until recently a deputy director for programs at GLAAD.
Johnson would not confirm whether he was running, but said it was “flattering” that people have mentioned him as a candidate.
“As Chair of CB4 I continue my work in maintaining healthy and safe areas through the battle for more affordable housing, more open space, and community friendly development,” he said in a statement. “I’m dedicated to engaging the community through a committment to planning and preservation. That’s my focus.”
But Johnson could also face problems with his progressive credentials, since he supported Bloomberg’s 2009 re-election, according to a list posted on the Jim Owles website, which was taken from the Bloomberg campaign website.
Finally, there’s Andrew Berman, executive director of the Greenwich Village Society for Historical Preservation, who has been a vocal opponent of over-development in the Village.
Berman, who seems to be generally well-liked in LGBT progressive circles, also wouldn’t confirm plans to run.
“Right now my top priority is running a community organization which is fighting to preserve our communities, and prevent real estate interests and some voracious institutions from getting special deals from the city which would allow them to more or less devour our neighborhoods whole,” Berman said.
With the race still some ways away and all the concerns about progressive credentials being raised, Roskoff said it remained ultimately unclear who the neighborhood’s liberal LGBT activists would back.
“None of the candidates are perfect,” he said. “There’s no Bella Abzug in this race.”