The ‘big, pushy broad’ pushing to be mayor of New York
Christine Quinn would be the first female and openly gay mayor of New York city, if she lit the spark
Christine Callaghan Quinn, the 47-year-old speaker of the New York City Council, wants to be seen as a member of the fighting Irish. Photograph: Reuters/Eduardo Munoz
A well-dressed man at the West 72nd Street subway entrance stops to take one of the fliers Christine Quinn is handing out.
“You don’t seem quite as evil as they make you out to be,” he says, smiling at her.
Quinn looks a bit startled, then replies, “I’m really not”.
This should be the moment for Christine Callaghan Quinn, and she is back in the lead after being knocked off last month by a resurgent Anthony Weiner. The coppery 47-year-old speaker of the New York City Council wants to be seen as a member of the fighting Irish, “a big pushy broad”, as she puts it, who pushes for New York.
The slight Weiner has never achieved anything in politics but, even at this nadir, his bellicose intensity can still get him cheers from some crowds. The sturdy Quinn has accomplished a lot – herding loony council members and helping Mayor Michael Bloomberg – but she has a hard time exciting voters, even women.
“You never see Chris swaying people in church back and forth,” said one top Democrat.
In trying to be all things, to go left without losing Bloomberg and to go right without losing the Democratic base, Quinn has gotten a little lost. New Yorkers want someone who looks as if they believe in one thing, even if they’re catering to many people.
Over a yoghurt-and-berry breakfast at a Midtown hotel, Quinn talks about trying to “create that connection”.
She says it’s frustrating when people criticise her for being politically inauthentic. By trying to calibrate your authenticity, she says, “you’re gonna make yourself crazy and take up space in your brain – and I don’t have that much space in my brain”. She bursts into her lusty laugh with the snort at the end.
Quinn is bracing for her rivals to start airing ads excoriating her for helping Emperor Bloomberg get his third term. She says she has no regrets about that, or about making the decision to have a “productive” relationship with the mayor.
“This idea that the honour of all this is in the fight as opposed to in the victory for New Yorkers really gets my goat,’’ she said. “Look at Washington, where you’re either all in or you’re the devil. Who does that help?”
Bloomberg loyalists regard Quinn’s attempt to distance herself from the mayor on “stop and frisk” and other issues as awkward and offensive, like a teenage daughter rebelling against daddy. As one put it, “It shouldn’t be that hard for her to say, ‘The city’s doing well, but we can do better’.”
Quinn is still smarting over a New York Times story that described her volatile “hair-trigger eruptions”.
“Am I pushy?” she asks. “Yep. Do I like taking no for an answer when no means New Yorkers aren’t going to get something they need? No. Do I push back and crack some eggs? Absolutely.”
She also defends her decision to call the police and fire commissioners in July when an ambulance did not arrive in a timely way, after a City Council intern fainted in the heat.
“I’m going to do whatever I have to do to help a New Yorker,” she says, “whether it’s a girl on the street or a tenant in a housing development”.