Council Speaker Vote On Agenda Today At City Hall; Trump For Gov.?
As the curtain rises on the 2006 political year, names like Donald Trump and Antonia Novello are popping up in conversations about GOP candidates in statewide races, and there’s growing talk that Thomas Suozzi will be challenging Eliot Spitzer in the Democratic primary for governor.
Meanwhile, the first major political contest of the year, for Speaker of the City Council, will be settled at City Hall today. The Queens council delegation and its 14 votes will play a major role, not only in who gets the big prize but also in awarding the consolation prizes, such as committee chairmanships.
It will take 26 votes to make a winner in the 51-member council, and the only thing certain is that it will be a Democrat because that party has an overwhelming majority in the city legislature.
Going into the caucus today, seven candidates are competing frantically for the title, three of them from Queens—Melinda Katz (Forest Hills), Leroy G. Comrie Jr. (St. Albans) and David Weprin (Hollis). The others are Bill de Blasio and Lewis A. Fidler, both of Brooklyn; Christine Quinn of Manhattan; and Joel Rivera of The Bronx.
The general feeling is that de Blasio and Quinn have the best chance of emerging as winners.
Short of putting together a winning coalition for Weprin; Katz or Comrie, Queens Democratic Leader Thomas Manton will be angling to help deliver votes to the eventual winner so that as many of the borough’s lawmakers as possible are tapped for committee chairmanships.
With a last minute surge of support, Quinn, who would be the first woman to hold the powerful position of Speaker, appears to have won the job. Quinn, 39, got the push she needed to win the post when the Queens delegation joined her side, along with Brooklyn and The Bronx. DeBlasio, her closest opponent, conceded Quinn had won the plum on Monday. Queens lawmakers reported receiving calls from Manton urging them to vote for Quinn.
Four years ago, Queens councilmembers teamed with The Bronx delegation to provide 21 votes for the eventual winner, Councilmember Gifford Miller. Subsequently, when the council was organized, virtually every Queens lawmaker was made a committee chairman. A few wound up with powerful posts—Weprin as Finance chair; Katz heading zoning and Peter Vallone Jr. at the helm of the Public Safety panel.
How the horse trading will play out today is anybody’s guess. Several key players said last week that coalitions don’t gel until close to crunch time, when the voting begins. It will be interesting.
TRUMP A CANDIDATE? Republicans have had little success in finding a widely accepted candidate to run for governor this year, so we’re sure political junkies really ate up the story in last Friday’s New York Daily News that Donald Trump was “mulling a bid” to go after the GOP nomination.
Trump shot down the trial balloon on Monday, saying he had no interest in running for public office at this time. Sources reported he was too busy with his “The Apprentice” television show. Also, he’s due to become a father again.
The story quoted the usual Republican sources for the story, and also reported that state Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, one of the most influential GOP voices in the state had whetted reporters’ appetites by saying a wealthy New Yorkers was thinking about seeking the party’s support to make the race.
The intriguing part of the story is that it isn’t totally out of the realm of possibility. Trump has emerged from his foray into television with an image far different from when he was a playboy and lady chaser. Beside that, he has been involved in the Albany casino issue for several years albeit from a personal perspective, trying to break the Native American stranglehold on the industry.
His being a very wealthy, successful real estate magnate and casino operator also serve as the prerequisites to wage a creditable campaign. After all, Mayor Michael Bloomberg left a functioning and profitable business to take up a full-time political career, so why not The Donald?
Also, this is the first Wednesday of the new year, and the GOP still hasn’t got an inkling of who will be their gubernatorial candidate. Former Massachusetts Governor William Weld appears to be the front-runner, but he can’t claim solid support among party leaders, even though there’s not a realistic challenger to him in sight.
DEM PRIMARY? In the Democratic gubernatorial picture, state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer still is a prospective candidate, but talk persists that Nassau County Executive Thomas Suozzi is planning to challenge him for the nomination in a primary.
In fact, one recent story has Suozzi announcing his candidacy on Friday, January 13 which at least shows he has no fear of an old superstition.
Several Dems are reportedly trying to dissuade the 43-year-old county executive, including state Comptroller Alan Hevesi, but state Democratic chairman Denny Farrell isn’t bringing any pressure to change Suozzi’s mind.
Politics aside, Spitzer and Suozzi are teaming up in a suit against a Rockville Centre home health care agency for alleged Medicaid fraud.
NOVELLO VS. HILLARY? The end of 2005 also brought up the name of state Health Commissioner Antonia Novello as a possible opponent for United States Senator Hillary Clinton in her bid for a new six-year term.
Stories out of Albany said GOP leaders close to Pataki were trying to interest the 61-year-old, Puerto Rican-born health official to take on Clinton now that Jeanine Pirro has dropped out of the Senate race to run for state attorney general.
There was no word from Novello or her aides as to her feelings about challenging Clinton, although one GOP source said Novello would find running in a race with so much national attention focused on it interesting.
Other party insiders said Novello, one of the highest ranked Hispanic officials in the country, who had served in the first President Bush’s cabinet as U.S. Surgeon General, could attract strong Hispanic support at the polls.
One drawback might be campaign financing, since Clinton is considered such a strong favorite to win re-election. Republican leaders will also have to assess how competitive Novello would be against Clinton. Clinton winning in a landslide would brighten her prospects as a presidential contender in 2008, which Republican leaders would like to avoid.
BEST WISHES FOR RECOVERY: Our prayers are with Firefighter Matthew Long, son of state Conservative Party Chairman Michael Long, who was seriously injured just before Christmas when struck by a charter bus as he biked to Randalls Island during the three-day transit strike.
Long, 39, a firefighter for 12 years, is also the nephew of Thomas Long, the Queens Conservative Party chairman. He is recovering at Weill Cornell Medical Center.