Advance Group Helping Melissa Mark-Viverito in Speaker’s Race

Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito with Bill de Blasio. (Photo: Friends of Melissa 2013)

Melissa Mark-Viverito with Bill de Blasio. (Photo: Friends of Melissa 2013)

One of the city’s leading consulting firms is quietly aiding Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito in her quest to become the next speaker of the City Council–yet another sign that the race for the city’s second-most powerful position is revving up. 

The firm, The Advance Group, has been laboring behind-the-scenes for almost a month to assist Ms. Mark-Viverito, sources said. These efforts are said to include help networking with fellow council members, county leaders and even preparations for upcoming forums between the speaker candidates.

When reached by Politicker earlier today, the firm’s president, Scott Levenson, confirmed he had been assisting Ms. Mark-Viverito, but declined to discuss any additional details. “We’re just helping,” he said. “We’re a long-standing progressive firm.”

According to a well-placed council source, Mr. Levenson attended and helped Ms. Mark-Viverito network at the Somos El Futuro political conference in Puerto Rico last weekend. “I was told Scott was really working on her behalf,” the source told Politicker.

Ms. Mark-Viverito, a liberal firebrand, emerged from the conference as the apparent front-runner in the speaker’s race, which will be decided by an inside-baseball election among the 51 members of the City Council early next year. Other leading contenders include Manhattan Councilman Dan Garodnick and Queens Councilman Mark Weprin–although other hopefuls are campaigning and keeping their names in the mix by RSVP’ing to an upcoming speaker candidate forum.

Mr. Weprin does not appear to have a formal consultant while Mr. Garodnick has ties to BerlinRosen, the firm that represented Mr. de Blasio’s mayoral campaign.

The alliance between The Advance Group and Ms. Mark-Viverito makes some political sense, according to insiders. The East Harlem and Bronx councilwoman is a close ally of Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, who appears to also be pushing her candidacy. The Advance Group, which does lobbying work in addition to campaign consulting, spearheaded an early attack against one of Mr. de Blasio’s chief rivals in the mayor’s race, Christine Quinn, on behalf of an animal rights group funded by top de Blasio donors.

Ms. Mark-Viverito, who also works with consultants at the MirRam Group, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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