Who Won and Who Lost in 2014? Here’s the Winner’s Edition

Congressman Charles Rangel (Photo: Ross Barkan)

Congressman Charles Rangel (Photo: Ross Barkan)

On Wednesday, you read about 2014’s biggest political losers. Now that Christmas has come and gone, it’s time to crown the winners. Let’s get right down to business.

1. Robert Linn: Who? For many, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s first year will be defined by the crises, both minor and major, that threatened to derail the first Democratic mayor in two decades. The highlight of Mr. de Blasio’s year may be what has been most overlooked by the general public: his administration’s ability to negotiate new contracts for a large majority of the city’s labor unions, all of which were without contracts when Mr. de Blasio took office. Robert Linn, a chief labor negotiator for Ed Koch, was brought on at the end of 2013 as Mr. de Blasio’s own labor negotiator, no easy task in a city where unions still pack a punch and maintain sprawling, hard-to-please memberships. A year later, 71 percent of the city’s municipal workers have the new contracts Michael Bloomberg would never give them, and it appears Mr. Linn has done this without causing the city any significant fiscal harm by combining gradual raises with medical benefit changes.

2. State Senate Republicans: Mr. de Blasio enlisted his operatives, labor allies and even John Catsimatidis (!) to try to give the Democrats the majority in the State Senate. He nimbly brokered a deal to bring the Independent Democratic Conference, a breakaway group of Democrats who shared power with the Republican Conference, into an alliance with the mainline Democrats. But then the Real Estate Board of New York, along with the charter school lobby, sprung up to protect the GOP. It worked. Riding a national wave while invoking the specter of Mr. de Blasio upstate, the Republicans won an outright majority in November, making an alliance with the IDC technically unnecessary. Dean Skelos has been re-installed as majority leader and Mr. de Blasio is set to do battle for new rent laws and mayoral control of public schools on the GOP’s terms. A presidential year in 2016 may spell trouble for the aging Republican majority, but for the next two years, they will be in charge.

 3. Charles Rangel: The 84-year-old congressman looked doomed in the first half of 2014. After barely surviving a challenge in 2012 from State Senator Adriano Espaillat, Mr. Rangel was staring down a recharged Espaillat campaign in a majority Latino district that suited the insurgent, at least demographically, far better. To make matters worse, the city’s Democratic establishment had kicked the legendary Harlem lawmaker to the curb: Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, Comptroller Scott Stringer and the Bronx Democratic machine all fell behind Mr. Espaillat. Mayor Bill de Blasio, in a true snub to the man he once steered to victory as his campaign manager two decades before, chose to endorse no one. But Mr. Rangel ran a far more energetic and technologically-sophisticated campaign than he did two years prior, besting Mr. Espaillat and allowing himself to end his storied political career on his own terms.

4. Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito: Perhaps the biggest misstep of Ms. Mark-Viverito’s first year as speaker came when she endorsed Mr. Espaillat instead of Mr. Rangel. As noted above, Mr. Rangel won, even creaming Mr. Espaillat in Ms. Mark-Viverito’s East Harlem turf. But the speaker is a winner because she’s managed to sidestep controversy in a city that thrives on it. Ms. Mark-Viverito has maintained comity and order in a City Council of many ambitious but inexperienced lawmakers. When Ms. Mark-Viverito was elected by her colleagues in January, many questioned whether she had the temperament to lead. Those questions have long been put to rest. The City Council is a more democratic and transparent place under Ms. Mark-Viverito and elected officials can learn a thing or two about how disciplined she is in public. Legitimate criticisms can be leveled against her Council for being too compliant with Mr. de Blasio, and it remains to be seen how it will assert its independence more next year. But Ms. Mark-Viverito, term-limited in 2017, has proved she can run the ship.

5. Dr. Mary Bassett: Mr. de Blasio’s Health commissioner was a calming presence when New York got its first Ebola patient, Dr. Craig Spencer, in October. Dr. Bassett wrangled with an AIDS epidemic when she served on the medical faculty at the University of Zimbabwe and used that experience to help dispel the hysteria surrounding Ebola. Mr. de Blasio won praise for how his administration reacted to the onset of a potential public health disaster—and much of that credit should go to Dr. Bassett, who offered up reasoned factual information amid a debate over quarantines that at times turned political.

Who Won and Who Lost in 2014? Here’s the Winner’s Edition