It was the morning of Sept. 30, the first day of Rosh Hashanah, and Christine Quinn was rushing out the door of City Hall with reporters chasing after her. She knew what they wanted.
The big story that morning was a New York Post cover about term-limits advocate Ron Lauder coming out in favor of a change in the law to allow Mayor Michael Bloomberg to run for a third term. Had Ms. Quinn, the City Council’s speaker, Bloomberg ally and prospective mayoral contender, had any discussions with the mayor about the news?
“I don’t think I spoke to the mayor about anything yesterday—no,” she said, curtly. “Certainly not this. But I don’t think I spoke to him about anything.”
Then, that afternoon, The New York Times reported the seismic news that Mr. Bloomberg was going to announce plans to seek a third term.
And that, said the instant consensus—a year out from the mayor’s race—is that.
“I think the mayor has done a very, very good job, and I believe that if he does take this action, which I think now is somewhat anticipated, he will be successful in his bid,” said the Brooklyn County Democratic leader, Assemblyman Vito Lopez, with phones ringing in the background of his office. “Next week, we’re going to set up a meeting with the City Council.”
Among the issues to be discussed, he said, would be the future of Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who, along with the other leading potential mayoral candidates, Comptroller Bill Thompson and Representative Anthony Weiner, stands to be profoundly affected by the incumbent’s apparent decision to stick around.
A spokeswoman for Mr. Bloomberg, Evelyn Erskine, declined to comment when asked about Mr. Bloomberg’s plan to seek another term. E-mails to Mr. Bloomberg’s top political aide, Kevin Sheekey—who is reportedly opposed to the mayor’s efforts to change the term-limits law on the grounds that it is an unpopular move that would damage the mayor’s legacy—were not returned.
The contenders put on a brave face.
Mr. Thompson said in a brief telephone interview that he wouldn’t “engage in the speculation” about running against Mr. Bloomberg since, under current law, the mayor is barred from seeking a third term.
“It is my intention to run for mayor,” Mr. Thompson said. “This is not about any one person.”
He also sought to downplay the mayor’s reported maneuver as anything to get excited about. “I’m still moving forward,” he said. “It is a minor distraction.”
A spokesman for Mr. Weiner, John Collins, said, “This is highly speculative and third terms are illegal.”
City voters backed the term limits twice, in 1993 and 1996, and polls have shown widespread opposition to changing the law legislatively. According to the Times report, Bloomberg will seek to change the rules without voter approval, through Council legislation.
Some council members reacted to the report of Mr. Bloomberg’s intentions by asserting their institutional prerogative to thwart it.
“New York is a lot bigger than one man,” wrote term-limited Councilman John Liu of Queens, whose plans to run to replace Mr. Thompson as comptroller could be complicated if the law is changed.
And term-limited Councilman Robert Jackson of Manhattan said, in an interview, that Mr. Bloomberg “can’t run by himself.”
“The mayor needs us. He needs us in order to change term limits. The first thing that has to be done is a conversation between the mayor and our leader,” he said, referring to Ms. Quinn.
But that’s the thing. The mayor has been feeling out his potential support on the Council, two-thirds of whose members would also be affected by term limits, for weeks now, and reportedly has the necessary backing to make the change happen. And if it did, his billions of dollars and high approval ratings would seem to put him in prime position to follow through by winning a third term.
One of next year’s comptroller candidates, Adolfo Carrión, was already hedging bets about what will happen next year. From Carrión spokeswoman Anne Fenton, in a statement: “As of today, he’s still running for comptroller.”