Councilmembers Jumaane Williams and Rosie Mendez on stage together at City Councilwoman Margaret Chin’s inauguration. | SAM SPOKONY
There may be — at least publicly — no hard feelings after out lesbian City Councilwoman Rosie Mendez blasted her colleague Jumaane Williams for his stance against marriage equality and abortion rights during his recent unsuccessful bid to become the next Council speaker. The two briefly shared the stage on January 5 at the inauguration ceremony for Councilwoman Margaret Chin, who is now entering her second term.
Although Williams, after giving his congratulatory remarks, left the stage almost immediately once Mendez began her speech, she started off by making a rather friendly reference to Williams’ musical talent. “Did Jumaane sing?” Mendez asked the crowd, smiling. “Oh, he didn’t? That’s a real treat, you know, hearing Jumaane sing.”
Mendez, who represents Manhattan’s Lower East Side, took a public shot at Williams, of Brooklyn, in late November when she said she wouldn’t support him in the speaker’s race because he opposes same-sex marriage and abortion. “As an out lesbian, it's problematic for me that the person who would be representing this body is anti-gay marriage, anti- a woman's right to choose,” Mendez said then in an interview with Capital New York. “Those are two really fundamental progressive issues.”
Williams is, in fact, a member of the Council’s Progressive Caucus, although many in the city certainly do not consider his views on marriage and choice to be progressive in nature. Mendez, for her part, has declined to join that caucus, while she is generally regarded as one of the city’s most liberal elected officials.
While praising Chin on Sunday, Williams highlighted Chin’s role as a founding member of the Progressive Caucus as a reason for his continued support of her. “We’ve been doing a lot of good things in [the Progressive Caucus], and I’m looking forward to serving with her for another four years,” he said.
A day after the inauguration, in response to this newspaper’s question about his relationship with Mendez, Williams released a terse statement in which he did not allude to anything that went on during his bid to become speaker. “Councilmember Rose [sic] Mendez and I have a great relationship, and I look forward to continuing our work together,” said Williams. Mendez’s office did not immediately return a request for comment.
Moments after Williams and Mendez spoke on Sunday, a political staffer, speaking anonymously, said that Williams simply can’t afford to lash out against critics of his socially conservative views. “If he still held grudges against anyone for that, he wouldn’t have any friends left,” the staffer said.