The Stonewall Democratic Club of New York City endorsed Scott Stringer for mayor on April 21, giving the term-limited city comptroller another boost of queer support just weeks after he secured the backing of the Lambda Independent Democrats of Brooklyn (LID).
In a Twitter post on April 22, Stringer wrote, “I’m so honored to receive your endorsement, @SDNYC! We’ve been in the trenches together for decades to advance equality for all New Yorkers — now let’s continue the fight for LGBTQ+ New Yorkers and work to build a city for 𝑒𝑣𝑒𝑟𝑦𝑜𝑛𝑒.”
Notably, Stonewall also backed Brooklyn Councilmember Brad Lander over out gay Council Speaker Corey Johnson in the crowded race for comptroller — a move that was not surprising given the slate of queer leaders who expressed support for Lander’s campaign last month. Public Advocate Jumaane Williams also received Stonewall’s endorsement in his re-election bid.
The club threw its support behind numerous LGBTQ candidates running for City Council, including Erik Bottcher in District 3, Marti Gould Cummings in District 7, Kristin Richardson Jordan in District 9, Tiffany Cabán in District 22, Alfonso Quiroz in District 25, Amit Singh Bagga in District 26, Lynn Schulman in District 29, Crystal Hudson in District 35, Chi Ossé in District 26, Jacqui Painter in District 38, Josue Pierre in District 40, and Wilfredo Florentino in District 42.
The Lesbian & Gay Democratic Club of Queens joined Stonewall’s endorsement meeting — which was virtual due to the pandemic and recorded by club member Lewis Goldstein. The event included speeches from leading citywide candidates clamoring for the club’s support, but things got rather awkward when one of the leading candidates for mayor, Andrew Yang, made his pitch to club members.
After name-dropping his out gay co-campaign manager, Chris Coffey, and Brooklyn Councilmember Carlos Menchaca, who endorsed him earlier in the day, Yang segued into a point about political folks in the queer community. He said the LGBTQ community is “so human and so beautiful” and said queer folks represent a “secret weapon” within the party.
Yang then painted a broad brush when speaking about queer folks in political circles as he wondered aloud how Democratic candidates manage to lose against Republicans “given that you all are frankly in leadership roles all over the Democratic Party.”
“We have this incredible secret weapon — it’s not even secret — it’s like we should win everything because we have you all,” Yang said with a laugh.
Yang, who has also been endorsed by out gay Congressmember Ritchie Torres of the Bronx, admitted that he asked Coffey and Menchaca whether the LGBTQ community supports his campaign.
“They both looked at me and said, ‘You know what, Andrew, it’s a question mark. It’s inconclusive,” Yang said.
Among other points, Yang spoke briefly about the city’s recovery and expressed his desire to see in-person Pride festivities this year. The Reclaim Pride Coalition is planning an in-person Queer Liberation March again this year for a third straight year.
Yang’s remarks drew pointed responses from some folks who attended the meeting.
“Yang went before the Stonewall Dems endorsement meeting tonight and decided it would be a good idea to say he’s going to his first gay bar later this week and bringing his two ‘gay staffers’ along,” Alejandra Caraballo, an out trans attorney and former City Council candidate, said on Twitter. “His candidacy is a joke that stopped being funny a long time ago.”
Some other mayoral candidates on hand for Stonewall’s meeting reiterated the points they made at other forums. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams recalled engaging with homeless queer youth on Christopher Street during his time as a police officer and former Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia promoted her qualifications and experience stemming from her stint in the de Blasio administration.
When asked about the NYPD’s oft-criticized Vice Squad, which has a history of harassing sex workers, Adams said “I think we need to redefine the role of Vice.”
“Targeting particular groups should not be part of Vice,” said Adams, who has said he does not support the decriminalization of sex work.
Former Wall Street executive Ray McGuire outlined his background and pointed to his leadership roles by emphasizing that he has “managed budgets larger than most state budgets.” He also defended his decision to avoid participating in public campaign finance, saying it represents his independence as a candidate.
Former non-profit leader Dianne Morales, who has grabbed a visible slice of queer support so far, said she has helped organize queer events in the past, including the Queer Liberation March. She discussed the pandemic’s impact on vulnerable communities and stressed the importance of taking advantage of opportunities to help folks in need.
“New York wasn’t working for so many of us under the ‘normal’ times, so I am asking to partner with all of you to create a new New York City that actually would benefit all of us,” Morales said.
Stringer voiced similar points, emphasizing that the city cannot return back to the way it was prior to the pandemic. He also leaned on his experience while taking a shot at less qualified candidates when he said it is not a time to lead with “training wheels.”
Maya Wiley, who previously served as counsel to Mayor Bill de Blasio and chaired the Civilian Complaint Review Board, spoke about her experience as an attorney representing a client living with HIV who faced discrimination, which she said “shows us the incredible vulnerability of so many of our folks just based on who they are or who they love or how they’re perceived.”
Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan cited the gains made through the Supreme Court’s ruling last summer affirming non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ individuals under Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Donovan said the city must “create real accountability around that to ensure that there is no discrimination against communities.”
“That is something I would do with greater force and greater commitment than any other candidate in this race,” he said.
Wiley made the point that city leaders should be more responsive to different communities, including LGBTQ folks, and said the city should do a better job of steering resources to the appropriate places.
During the comptroller forum, Lander pointed to his LGBTQ-focused plan, which advocates for the decriminalization of sex work — a major LGBTQ issue in New York City — by showing the costs of criminalizing the sex trade. He also vows to audit the NYPD’s Vice Squad.
“I’m the only candidate in the race who has put forth a specific platform to highlight how I’d use the tools of the comptroller’s office to support New York City’s LGBTQ communities,” Lander told the club. “It centers trans women of color, but also focuses broadly on advancing gender equity and justice.”
Johnson told his coming out story and played up his work setting budgets as the leader of the City Council. He said the city requires someone who “knows the budget inside and out” to serve as comptroller during the recovery.
“I’m going to make sure every dollar we get in COVID relief is targeted directly to our recovery and the New Yorkers who need it the most,” he said.
Several other candidates were also on hand for the meeting, including comptroller hopefuls Terri Liftin and Brian Benjamin, who is a Manhattan state senator, as well as mayoral candidate Art Chang.
The meeting marked the latest in a string of mayoral forums hosted by queer political clubs. The Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club hosted a forum last October — prior to Yang’s entrance into the race — and LID held a forum that lasted multiple days and culminated in a runoff battle between Stringer and Morales before Stringer eked out a victory. The Jim Owles club has yet to make an endorsement in the mayoral race.
To sign up for the Gay City News email newsletter, visit gaycitynews.com/newsletter.