According to Maureen Dowd, New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn wants to be thought of as one of the Big Apple’s “fighting Irish.” But with the clock running down, and Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio gaining big yardage in the race to become Gotham’s next mayor, the city council speaker had better call a Hail Mary.
Quinn’s lackluster candidacy has been notable for its “firsts.” If she were somehow to engineer a fourth quarter victory, Quinn would become the first female and first openly gay mayor in New York City history.
But such firsts have failed to gain traction in a Democratic field rich with claims on history. A Mayor DeBlasio and his wife would be the first biracial (and, perhaps, bisexual couple) to live in Gracie Mansion. A Mayor John Liu would be the first Asian American to govern the city’s diverse population. And that’s leaving aside all the firsts that one can imagine coming out of an Anthony Weiner administration.
The fact is: Quinn should not be having such a hard time. As a long-serving city politician with a high profile, she was the pre-season favorite. She had talent, experience, and money in the bank. This race was Quinn’s to lose, and she’s losing it.
At last count, DeBlasio was polling at 43 percent among likely Democratic voters. Quinn has just 18 percent, putting her in third place behind former city comptroller Bill Thompson. DeBlasio will avoid a run-off with the second place challenger if he pulls down more than 40 percent of the vote in Tuesday’s primary.
If Quinn can’t stage a comeback, her candidacy could become one of the biggest upsets in “fighting Irish” history. A friendship-of-convenience with the unloved current mayor has done more than anything to keep the Quinn campaign out of the end zone.
Her role in the Bloomberg term-limit gambit of 2009, which the public viewed as significantly more than tacit approval, tarnished the smash-mouth reputation she had built in her first term as speaker.
Her public break with the mayor on the stop-and-frisk issue has not been enough to rehabilitate her reputation as a sell-out among the city’s liberals. It’s just not that interesting—everyone in the Democratic field is against stop-and-frisk.
Moreover, Quinn’s ground game has been weak. She has not deployed the legions of inspired young girls that you would expect from such a historic candidacy. The city’s gay community has not rallied to her side. Like Notre Dame in last year’s national championship game, Quinn’s natural allies haven’t really shown up.
Once upon a time, a candidate with Quinn’s background and last name would have sailed to victory in a citywide election. All four of Quinn’s grandparents were born in Ireland. Nowadays, though, it just doesn’t do you any good to be an Irish politician in New York. The Census Bureau reports that a mere 5 percent of New Yorkers claim Irish ancestry—hardly the kind of “base” that could lift Quinn to victory.
For the most part, Irish Americans now live in suburbs such as Quinn’s hometown, Glen Cove, Long Island. There is only one majority Irish neighborhood in New York City—Queens’s Breezy Point is 54.3 percent Irish. And Quinn is not likely to find much love there. Breezy Point is a rare bastion of red in New York City’s ocean of blue. She’d likely get more votes out of the Saint Patrick’s Day Parade Committee than Republican Breezy Point.
Christine Quinn may want to be thought of as the fighting Irish candidate, but the clock is her enemy now. Maybe she has a two-minute drill in her playbook.
If not, she might have more success with that other Irish standby—luck.