Council Speaker Candidates Lavish Praise on Bill de Blasio

The council speaker candidates at tonight's forum.

The council speaker candidates at tonight’s forum.

Six of the leading candidates for City Council speaker had a message tonight for mayor-elect Bill de Blasio: We like you. We really like you.

During a televised forum at the “Transition Tent” in lower Manhattan, the speaker hopefuls, who are jockeying in a backroom contest for the city’s second most powerful post, shared some disagreements–including whether so-called participatory budgeting should be expanded–but united around their universal love for Mr. de Blasio.

“So many of us are so excited about the new mayoralty and the fact that Mayor-elect de Blasio won by such overwhelming margin with so many new ideas he’s bringing to the city,” gushed East Side Councilman Dan Garodnick, who remained neutral in the Democratic primary. “I see myself as more or less in tune with the mayor-elect.”

East Harlem Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito, an early booster of Mr. de Blasio’s, held the mayor-elect in just as lofty esteem. “There has been an overwhelming mandate that has been sent in this election cycle and that we have all been a partner which makes me very enthusiastic,” declared Ms. Mark-Viverito, who is considered some insiders to be Mr. de Blasio’s favorite in the race. “I will be an ally and ideologically very aligned with the mayor-elect.”

Even Harlem Councilwoman Inez Dickens-who backed one of Mr. de Blasio’s rivals in the primary–tried to prove her de Blasio cred. (Mr. de Blasio returned the favor by endorsing Ms. Dickens’s primary challenger–an unusual move against an incumbent.)

“When Mayor de Blasio ran in 2009 for public advocate, I was one of the first in the Harlem community to support him, endorse him and he, in actuality, his campaign operated out of my club on Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard. So I do not see a difference,” said Mr. Dickens.

Of course the love-fest wasn’t exactly surprising given that Mr. de Blasio is expected to have significant sway in the race. Most of the candidates also broadly support Mr. de Blasio’s agenda, creating a potential conflict with the speaker’s traditional role as a counter-balance to the mayor. To that point, moderator Juan Manuel Benitez repeatedly asked if the speaker hopefuls would be “allies” or “counterbalances” to Mr. de Blasio and if they were ideologically, at all, different from the mayor-to-be.

Bronx Councilwoman Annabel Palma, who, like Ms. Dickens, also backed current Council Speaker Christine Quinn in the mayoral primary, stressed the pair’s personal friendship.

“I enjoy a good relationship with Mayor de Blasio. I was with him in 2005, I was with him in 2009. I was not with him this year but that does not mean I won’t be a good partner to him,” she said. Later, speaking with Politicker, she maintained she had been friends with Mr. de Blasio for over a decade. “When I first got elected to the City Council, I specifically asked to be on general welfare [committee] because it was the issue that I passionately cared about and he was the head of that committee. And I worked with him while he was in the council, in partnership.”

Mr. Weprin, another Quinn backer, said he too would be a counter-balance to Mr. de Blasio’s power, but still commended the mayor-elect.

“I’m looking forward to working with Mayor de Blasio. I, like he, am an admirable Democrat, a public school parent, a progressive with a 19-year legislative career with a strong progressive record on so many issues,” said Mr. Weprin.

Meanwhile, Bronx Councilman Jimmy Vacca, who endorsed a Bill Thompson in the mayor’s race, sold himself as more of a balance to Mr. de Blasio. Yet he reminded his audience that he once was in Mr. de Blasio’s corner, too.

“I supported Bill de Blasio for speaker in 2005 and I supported him for public advocate in 2009 so obviously I think highly of him,” he said.

Council Speaker Candidates Lavish Praise on Bill de Blasio