On Sunday, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn officially announced her mayoral run on Twitter. Her mayoral aspirations weren't exactly a secret, but that doesn't make her bid to replace Michael Bloomberg any less important.
Much of the focus on her campaign will be on the fact that she'd be the first openly gay mayor of New York City. The U.S. got its first openly gay mayor in 2010 when Annise Parker won Houston's mayoral race. Mayor of New York City, however, is a celebrity on a level that other cities are hardpressed to match, which isn't lost on the LGBT community. Melissa Sklarz, president of the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City, tells the Washington Blade that Quinn's campaign will reverberate beyond NYC and "send a message around the world that homophobia and politics do not mix in the 21st century."
Quinn is far from assured a win, though. Despite having the official backing of groups like the Human Rights Campaign and the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, she has been criticized by the left for, in the words of groups like Queers Against Christine Quinn, selling out "her ideals, progressive roots, and the LGBT community — all in exchange for her own personal advancement."
Jonathan Capehart at The Washington Post notes that while Quinn has been open about her private life — standing with her wife Kim Catullo at press conferences and not dancing around the fact she was gay back when it was a much bigger political risk — her announcement video seemed to be lacking the same transparency:
Here's how surreal all this is. Back in 1999, Quinn sat with a fresh-faced Greg Sargent to quash the rumors that she was in fact straight. "I'm a lesbian. Yup. Hundred percent. Hundred percent." [...] But in her announcement video where she felt free to include a photo of her parents on their wedding day, Quinn neglected to include her own. [Washington Post]
Leaving Quinn's sexual orientation aside, if she were to win, she would also be the first woman to get the job. Being the first woman to lead New York City could present its own set of challenges. How much of a boy's club is the mayor's office? "He likes me in high heels," Quinn recently said of Bloomberg to a New York magazine reporter, who later noted an incident at a party in which Mayor Bloomberg "gestured toward a woman in a very tight floor-length gown standing nearby and said, 'Look at the ass on her.'" Despite Bloomberg's apparently less-than-enlightened views on women, Quinn has been criticized for being too close to the mayor — especially when it came to voting "yes" to allow Bloomberg to run for a third consecutive term.
Ultimately, the biggest story to come out of all of this is that New Yorkers don't seem fazed by Quinn being a lesbian. In a recent Quinnipiac poll, Quinn did as well as all of her Democratic primary challengers combined. That's a far cry from what happened in Houston, where Annise Parker faced organized opposition from religious conservatives over the fact that she was gay. The poll also had 16 percent more New Yorkers — apparently tired of their current mayor — responding more positively to a gay or lesbian candidate than a "business executive candidate." Sorry Bloomberg, looks like a fourth term is out of the question.