When New York City mayor-elect Eric Adams said he was staying out of the combative race for city council chairman, the statement made sense: he still has the vast majority of his cabinet appointments to make, and an extraordinarily difficult job awaits him in three weeks.
And yet, skipping a major political contest – one that would decide whether the second most powerful post in city government would be held by an ally of Mr. Adams – seemed like an almost new notion in New York City.
And of course, over the past week or so, Mr Adams and his associates had spoken to board members on behalf of his preferred candidate, Francisco Moya of Queens, who was believed to have little pre-existing support. among those who would have to choose. him as their leader.
The movement, however, could end up turning against him.
On Tuesday, four leadership contenders agreed to quit the race and back another candidate, Adrienne Adams, a councilor from Queens, bringing her closer to the 26 votes she needs to become president in the January election.
“After much discussion and collaboration with my colleagues, I am honored to have received the votes necessary to become the next New York City Council speaker,” said Ms. Adams. said in a press release. âThe new city council will be beautifully diverse and wonderfully collaborative in many ways. “
But to illustrate how complicated the maneuvers were, Mr Moya also declared victory on Tuesday shortly after Ms Adams’ announcement.
“I am honored to announce that our diverse coalition of board members and New York City leaders have garnered a majority of votes to elect the next board chair.” he said on Twitter. âI look forward to leading this organization towards a better future for our great city. “
Neither he nor Ms Adams have identified the board members they believe are behind them.
If Mr Moya were to win, Mr Adams would gain a trusted government partner, helping him pave the way for him to execute his mayoral agenda.
A victory for Ms Adams, on the other hand, would amount to a striking political defeat for a new mayor who has spent his political capital trying to push her choice forward, although Ms Adams has backed Mr Adams in the Democratic primary and both, who are not related, do not seem to have marked ideological differences.
Whatever the outcome, Adams found himself at odds with major unions and board members at a crucial time in his transition, which has so far lagged behind his predecessor. Machinations threaten to create his first political puzzle as he seeks to complete his administration.
The four board members who have decided to withdraw from the speaker competition and support Ms. Adams – Diana Ayala of East Harlem and the Bronx; Keith Powers on the east side; Gale Brewer of the Upper West Side; and Justin Brannan from south Brooklyn – did so after meeting her on Sunday, The Daily News reported.
The new city council will be the most diverse in history, with women and members who identify as people of color in the majority. Some of the candidate speakers felt it was important for someone who represents this diversity to lead the Council.
“I recognize the moment we find ourselves in – that for the first time we have a majority board of women of color, and I’m proud to support Adrienne Adams as chair of the board that represents the body and this historic moment,” Ms Ayala, one of three women of color in the race for speakers, said in a statement Tuesday.
(Later in the day, Ms Ayala said the race ended up looking like a ‘telenovela’.)
If Mr Adams fails in his first major political play as the new mayor, he may have to deal with lingering bitterness from city council and some union leaders. overwhelmed by the efforts of his team override their will.
In interviews over the past few days, some board members have expressed concern about the advisers who worked with Mr Adams to support Mr Moya in the first place. These members also asked why Mr. Adams did not seem willing to back down in the face of substantial resistance from the Council and several influential unions, including the 32BJ, which represents construction workers, and DC37, the largest employee union. of the city’s civil service, which wanted a more collaborative process.
The battle over who will be the next chairman of the board has consumed New York politics at all levels in recent days. Union leaders, county officials and other party leaders have all sought to reconcile the preferences of the incoming mayor, who sits at the peak of his political power and enjoys pools of goodwill, with an incoming class that includes independent members. . Some of them have deep reservations about Mr. Moya, although he certainly now has public support as well.
Mr Moya is Latino, and at a time when no city-wide office is occupied by a Latino, a number of his supporters have cited his experience when arguing for his candidacy.
The race even created divisions within Mr. Adams’ own coalition – so much so that some board members and others involved in the process who oppose Mr. Moya called themselves the Rebel Alliance. , a “star wars”. reference.
“This is the most insane speaker race I have ever seen,” said Rep. Ritchie Torres, Bronx Democrat and former board member, speaking widely of the upheaval. âA wedge has been carved out through the congressional delegation, county organizations, council and the labor movement. “
But Staten Island city councilor Joseph Borelli, who heads the Republican caucus of five council members, said the move was not unusual.
“People can’t remember four years ago and they can’t remember four years before that,” said Mr Borelli, who has yet to publicly declare his allegiance to the race, but who would support Mr. Moya. “And there’s always that level of haggling and ebb and flow of momentum.”
Representative Grace Meng, a Democrat from Queens who is close to three members of the new board who are said to be undecided, urged union officials, Mr Adams and county party leaders to hold a meeting to settle their differences.
Tiffany CabÃ¡n, newly elected Queens Council member and Democratic Socialist, said it was important for the next speaker to be able to ‘democratize’ city council and help members craft an agenda based on the needs of the communities they represent .
âThere are a few things that are incredibly important in the next speaker,â Ms. CabÃ¡n said. âFirst and foremost, the mayor does not choose the speaker. The best way to move forward is to use an independent body that provides checks and balances. “
Despite several people describing Mr. Adams having direct conversations about the race with board members, he continues to maintain that he takes a hands-off approach.
“I said from the start, that I was not going to be clumsy in this race,” he said, when a television interview on Tuesday morning. âPeople call me, they call me all the time, and they say, ‘Eric, what are you thinking?’ I give them an analysis of the people who are mentioned in the race, to give my opinion. I am looking for a partner. The speakerphone is not working for me.