Speaker’s nod offers former HUD secretary critical LGBT support
Declaring that, “We could do no better in the lesbian and gay community than having Andrew Cuomo in this job,” City Council Speaker Christine Quinn on Sunday endorsed the former Clinton administration secretary of housing and urban development in his bid to succeed Eliot Spitzer as New York’s attorney general.
Quinn, a lesbian who has represented the West Village, Chelsea, and Hell’s Kitchen on the Council since 1999, said Cuomo, the son of a former Democratic governor, has an “unparalleled commitment to social justice,” citing his work expanding housing opportunities for people living with AIDS and protecting battered women and their children while at HUD.
The Quinn nod—and particularly her comments about Cuomo’s commitment to gay rights—offer useful bona fides for a candidate who faced tough questioning at a January meeting of the Stonewall Democratic Club of New York about incidents that took place nearly 30 years ago—when supporters of his father’s 1977 run for mayor, on which the son worked, carried placards gay-baiting the ultimate winner, Ed Koch, with the words “Vote for Cuomo, not the homo.”
Cuomo also does not immediately come to mind as the obvious choice of the gay community in the AG’s race. The Democratic primary in September may also include an out gay candidate, Sean Patrick Maloney, a former top aide to Clinton in the White House, Charlie King, a non-profit housing executive who has long supported gay marriage rights, and former Public Advocate Mark Green, who endorsed marriage equality after his 1998 race for U.S. senator but prior to his 2001 bid for mayor. Green has repeatedly snared important gay Democratic club endorsements throughout his political career.
Cuomo, in his short-lived gubernatorial bid in 2002, said he supported civil unions rather than marriage for gay and lesbian couples, but like Green has advanced his thinking since an earlier statewide race and now endorses marriage equality.
Corey Johnson, a gay man who is Green’s political director, told Gay City News, “Mark will carry the LGBT community this fall because of his decades of support for LGBT issues.”
Maloney spoke to Gay City News about the Quinn endorsement and then sent an e-mail statement saying, “I respect and admire Chris Quinn, who is a personal friend… I also understand that she has considerations beyond the community now too. She and I spoke before she did this and I understand what she has to do—this is politics.”
The Albany Times-Union offered its take on what those politics might be in analysis echoed by many pundits and members of the LGBT community, speaking off the record. The newspaper noted that Quinn’s endorsement came the same week that Cuomo’s campaign announced the support of Queens County Democratic Chairman Thomas Manton. The Queens Democratic organization was viewed as pivotal in brokering an agreement among party leaders there and in the Bronx and Brooklyn that delivered the speakership to Quinn over her closest rival, Brooklyn’s Bill de Blasio. Mario Cuomo’s political roots can be traced back to the Queens Democratic Party.
The Quinn endorsement also came the same week as Cuomo announced that state party vice chair Emily Giske, a lesbian who like Quinn is influential in Manhattan’s Gay and Lesbian Independent Democrats, is one of his campaign’s four statewide vice chairs. The endorsements by the two women raise the specter that a GLID endorsement could be delivered to Cuomo rather than to Green, who has several times won the group’s nod, or to Maloney.
Another lesbian Democratic leader who has made an endorsement in the race is Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, from the West Village, who with numerous colleagues, is supporting Assemblyman Richard L. Brodsky, who has represented Westchester County since 1982. Brodsky said he would vote yes on a gay marriage bill if it came to the floor of the Assembly, but is also interested in Glick’s proposal to do away with civil marriage in New York entirely, and instead offer straight and gay couples the right to civil unions. Brodsky told Gay City News that as attorney general his job would be to defend the current marriage law, but significantly said he saw no compelling state interest in barring gay marriage.
Last June, Maloney won the support of the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund, a Washington-based group that supports out politicians that the group concludes can run a credible election contest. Since that endorsement, the group has contributed nearly $20,000 to Maloney’s campaign.