Gay vote fractures as Christine Quinn loses New York City mayoral race

Posted by Justin Snow
September 11, 2013 10:18 AM |

SCN040713VictoryFundBrunchWashHiltonWM0355 Christine Quinn.JPG

It wasn't the ending Christine Quinn had hoped for.

Taking the stage of what was intended to be her victory party at a Chelsea hotel, the first female and first out speaker of the New York City Council conceded defeat shortly after 11:30 p.m. Tuesday in the Democratic primary race for New York City mayor.

Standing next to her wife, Kim Catullo, Quinn appeared to struggle to smile as she expressed disappointment in the results and an appreciation for her supporters.

"Although I'm obviously disappointed by the results, I gotta tell you all of you guys couldn't make me more optimistic about the future of the city," a visibly emotional Quinn said. "There's a young girl out there who was inspired by the thought of New York's first woman mayor and said to herself, 'You know what? I can do that.'"

Quinn's third-place finish with just 15 percent of the vote could hardly have been imagined when she announced her candidacy in March to become New York City's first out and female mayor. She was viewed by many as the handpicked successor of outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg. So what went wrong for the woman who not only garnered endorsements from DOMA plaintiff Edie Windsor and the Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, but every major newspaper in the city?

The 47-year-old Quinn was considered the frontrunner to replace Bloomberg for much of the Democratic primary (the winner of which is expected to soundly defeat any Republican opponent), with her poll numbers approaching the essential 40 percent needed to avoid a runoff as stipulated by New York City election law. But as the campaign wound on, it was Quinn's close working relationship with Bloomberg and the view of some voter's that she would be a continuation, or the "fourth term," of the outgoing mayor that led her support to collapse. Quinn soon found herself polling not in second place, but third, while New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio soared in the polls. (With 98 percent of precincts reporting, de Blasio is in the lead to secure the Democratic nomination, but it is not yet clear if he will face a runoff with former city comptroller and 2009 Democratic nominee William Thompson.)

And it wasn't just general voters who abandoned Quinn's candidacy in recent week. Perhaps the most startling exit poll from Tuesday night was one showing Quinn didn't even carry the city's gay vote. With 9 percent of New York City's electorate identifying as LGB, 39 percent voted for Quinn while 48 percent went for de Blasio.

"There's a lesson here for New Yorkers, LGBT and otherwise: when securing the rights of citizens requires bucking the city's power elite, Chris Quinn is not on your side," Richard Kim of The Nation wrote last week of Quinn’s close alliance to Bloomberg on such controversial policies as "stop-and-frisk."

"Gay New Yorkers experience their identity inside the warp and woof of the city – as workers, as subjects of police profiling, as working- and middle-class residents who for the last decade have been squeezed out of a city that is now the most unequal in the country," Kim continued. "Only the most narcissistic and tribal conception of identity politics would fail to take that more expansive view of life and politics into account." 

Meanwhile, de Blasio — who entered the race polling at just shy of the single digits — ran as a populist, promising a "progressive alternative to the Bloomberg era" and painitng Quinn as an establishment candidate representing New York elites. 

Quinn appeared to realize her support was slipping away. Although she entered the race without much fanfare of the historic nature of her candidacy, she began to emphasize the "firsts" that would be made by her election. On Election Day, her Twitter feed began using the hashtag "#MakeHistory."

Last week, Quinn held a rally outside the Stonewall Inn as she attempted to regain her lead. Noting a recent string of anti-LGBT hate crimes, Quinn said her election would help quell the violence. 

"One election won't change that overnight," Quinn said, according to the New York Observer. "But one election will be an enormous step forward. It will send a message – it will send a message that the LGBT community and all of those great New Yorkers who support us, that we are the majority of this city."

Similar sentiments had been made by Quinn supporters throughout the campaign. During an event in April, Victory Fund President and CEO Chuck Wolfe asked rhetorically, "What's it going to be like to have the most important financial city on the planet, the most important city in this country — what's it going to be like to have an out mayor?"

Despite Quinn's promises, and the promises of what it would mean to make New York City the largest municipality to ever have an out mayor, it wasn't enough to shore up gay voters, or female voters, who went for de Blasio 39 to 16 percent. 

"Simply being the LGBT candidate isn't enough anymore," wrote Saeed Jones of BuzzFeed following Quinn's defeat last night. "In New York, which arguably has one of the most diverse LGBT communities in the country, policies that impact the intersection of race, class and gender are just as important to LGBT voters as marriage equality, HIV/AIDs prevention and anti-bullying measures."

[Photo: Christine Quinn. Credit: Ward Morrison/Metro Weekly.]

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