Inez Dickens Says She Can Still Be Council Speaker

Councilwoman Dickens. (Photo: council.nyc.gov)

Councilwoman Dickens. (Photo: council.nyc.gov)

Inez Dickens this evening said she’s still in the running to become the next speaker of the City Council and directed some rare blows at her ally, current Speaker Christine Quinn.

Speaking after a candidates’ forum in the Bronx, the Harlem councilwoman–a front-runner in the contest before Ms. Quinn’s loss in the mayor’s race–said she remained confident in her chances, despite hitching her cart to the wrong horse.

“Yes, I do and that’s why I came tonight. That’s why I will be in Brooklyn tomorrow,” she told reporters. “I certainly am.”

Mr. Dickens had been considered a competitive contender for the city’s second-most powerful post until the implosion of the Quinn campaign, which Ms. Dickens had vocally backed. Adding to the chips stacked against her, Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio, who is expected to play an outsize role in the contest, took the rare step of endorsing Ms. Dicken’s opponent in her council re-election race, which she handily won. These days, Ms. Dickens is rarely mentioned among the top contenders for the post, a list that includes Melissa Mark-Viverito and Dan Garodnick from Manhattan, and Mark Weprin from Queens.

Adding to speculation about her candidacy, Ms. Dickens missed the first speaker’s forum in Queens last week after arriving as it was ending and withdrew her name from a more formal debate scheduled for later this week.

But despite the hiccups, Mr. Dickens told Politicker she doesn’t regret backing Ms. Quinn–and doesn’t expect the decision to impact her chances in the race, which will be decided by the council’s 51 new and returning members come January.

“I don’t think it should hurt me in this race,” she said, pointing out that none of the Democratic county chairs who have historically played a role in the backroom-decision process endorsed Mr. de Blasio either.

“Some endorsed the mayor-elect, some endorsed Bill Thomson, some endorsed Christine Quinn. All the members endorsed somebody … Are they hurt because they endorsed someone who did not win? I don’t think that should be the criteria,” she said, further dismissing a question about whether she thought Mr. de Blasio’s decision to endorse her challenger had been a slight.

“I didn’t ask him. That’s a question that you should pose to him,” she said. “I did not take it that. I took it that that was a political decision that he made. I was endorsing his opponent, and he made a decision to endorse an opponent of mine.”

Nonetheless, during the forum, Ms. Dickens offered some rare criticism of Ms. Quinn’s leadership of the council, suggesting that the body had too often served as a rubber stamp for Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s agenda.

“The City Council has a responsibly to have oversight of the mayor and all the agencies. And that has been the complaint of this administration, and that should never be the complaint in the next administration,” she argued. “The City Council should be able to have the proper oversight and not be a ‘yes’ vehicle as what has been said was done for the last eight years.”

Later, Ms. Dickens explained that, while she’s been a supporter of Ms. Quinn and “much of her agenda,” she sometimes received complaints from other members concerning the speaker. “Some of the members have asked me to speak with her,” she said, citing the debate over the Kingsbridge armory and two bills aimed at reining in he NYPD’s controversial stop-and-frisk policy.

Still, Ms. Dickens praised Ms. Quinn for introducing a series of reforms to the council, including overhauling the budget process.

“The members have a lot more say,” she said.