De Blasio Refuses to Explain Involvement in Speaker’s Race

Bill de Blasio at today's event.

Bill de Blasio at today’s event.

What speaker’s race?

According to sources and reports across the media landscape, Mayor-elect Bill de Blasio has been deeply involved in the race for City Council speaker, telling individual members and even a county boss that his influential support is behind Melissa Mark-Viverito’s candidacy. But, asked repeatedly about the topic at a press conference today, Mr. de Blasio refused to elaborate.

“You’ll be shocked to know that I don’t make it a practice to divulge private conversations,” he said in response to the first inquiry at the event, which was called to announce a new administration hire. “I will simply say I talked to some council members. I gave them my observations on what’s going on. They’re going to make their own decision.”

“They will make their own decisions, I assure you,” he added, reiterating his point. “But I have made it a point from day one–from the moment I was elected–to have a regular, constant dialogue with the council members. I want to be a mayor who has that kind of regular, positive relationships with council members.”

Mr. de Blasio, a former councilman himself, began pressing members to back his close ally Ms. Mark-Viverito this week, prompting the three powerful Democratic county leaders–Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx–to organize on behalf of Manhattan Councilman Dan Garodnick, a candidate hoping to bridge the divide between the traditional county establishment and newly-formed Progressive Caucus blocs. Ms. Mark-Viverito is a leader in the Progressive Caucus.

The move appeared fatal to Ms. Mark-Viverito’s bid. However, shaking the fluid race yet again, Mr. de Blasio this morning brokered a deal with Brooklyn leader, Frank Seddio, sources said, to back Ms. Mark-Viverito.

Some members of the traditional county establishment have been frustrated by Mr. de Blasio’s meddling in the speaker’s race, but pressed today on whether his involvement upsets the checks and balances of city government, the mayor-elect offered a familiar talking point. “Again, council members will make up their own mind, I assure you,” he told Politicker.

A follow-up query pushed Mr. de Blasio on whether having a City Council that’s too close to the executive branch could be a concern. Mr. de Blasio responded with a note of sarcasm before returning again to broad strokes about the independence of the legislative body. (“Wow! What a challenge that would be,” he mused.)

Next, directly posed with the question of whether he indeed supported Ms. Mark-Viverito for the job, Mr. de Blasio again dodged: “I want to just say this very clearly,” he said, “I respect the fact that the council members make this decision. I can offer my own observations but they make this decision. I think it is well known I know, like and respect Melissa greatly. But this is a decision that council members make.”

Taking a final question on his own accusations that current Council Speaker Christine Quinn–his former opponent in the mayor’s race–was overly close to outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Mr. de Blasio again stuck to his generic talking points about the independence of the council.

But Mr. de Blasio’s last words before concluding the press conference perhaps betrayed a note of his involvement in the speaker’s race–on behalf of the progressive bloc. 

“A lot of new progressive members, they’re going to make their presence felt and they’re going to maintain their independence,” he said. “I don’t have a doubt about it.”

De Blasio Refuses to Explain Involvement in Speaker’s Race