Mayor-elect Eric Adams has acknowledged having private talks with elected officials as well as union leaders on who he wants to become the next New York City Council speaker, as the race intensifies for what is considered the second-most powerful role in city government.
The behind-the-scenes maneuvering amounts to the first political test for the new administration.
On Thursday, Adams was asked at an unrelated news conference whether he was making calls on behalf of candidate Francisco Moya, a Democrat who represents parts of Queens that includes East Elmhurst and Corona. Moya served in the state Assembly where he had worked with Senate members of the now-defunct Independent Democratic Conference.
Some of his surrogates making calls include Manhattan and Bronx Rep. Adriano Espaillat and outgoing Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., according to multiple sources who asked not to give their name so they can freely speak about the race. A spokesperson for Diaz Jr. declined to comment. A representative for Espaillat did not immediately return a call for comment.
“When people reached out to me who I respect as leaders and unions as well as other electeds, I shared my opinions,” Adams told reporters on Thursday. “I made it clear in private conversations who should be the next speaker, and they should embrace my values.”
“Public safety—we have to be safe—this is not a secret,” said Adams, who did not disclose his top choices for speaker.
His comments were the latest sign that the mayor-elect is working behind the scenes after previously saying he would not get involved in the race. They also came amid growing opposition to Moya, who is considered unpopular among some members in the council and pegged as more of a centrist compared to colleagues.
Late Friday, a source told Gothamist that Queens Council member Adrienne Adams, whose district includes Jamaica and Richmond Hill, had secured the backing of DC 37 and 32 BJ, two important unions that would make her a formidable candidate. The Daily News reported sources as saying that she had also received the support of two other unions—New York State Nurses Association and the Communication Workers of America—and Queens Democratic party leader Rep. Gregory Meeks and Bronx Democratic leader and state Senator Jamaal Bailey.
Moya is being endorsed by the Hotel Trades Council, a union that represents hotel workers.
The involvement of the mayor and his surrogates has angered advocacy groups who continue to press for a female speaker given the first-ever female majority in the council come January. Ten women’s organizations, including 21 in ‘21, which successfully pushed to get a majority of women on the council, released a joint statement on Wednesday urging that the next speaker be a woman over a man.
“So long as the mayor-elect is pushing a man, he’s not reading the room,” Jessica Haller, the group’s executive director, told Gothamist/WNYC.
Hank Sheinkopf, a veteran political consultant, said that the campaign for Moya runs the risk of making Adams appear politically weak should the effort fail.
"A good operative knows not to show his hand," he said. "Once you're up front, you better win."
Politico reported earlier this week that Adams has supported Moya in calls with union and Democratic party leaders, but that he may also be open to Brooklyn Councilmember Justin Brannan. Some have argued that given that the council is poised to have its first female majority, the next speaker should be a woman and more specifically, a woman of color.
Reached for comment, Evan Thies, a spokesperson for Adams, did not say who the mayor-elect is supporting.
The practice of mayors chiming in on the speaker’s race is common. In the 2014 race for speaker, Mayor Bill de Blasio was directly involved in talks to get his political ally, Melissa Mark-Viverito, to become speaker. He did so by circumventing the county party bosses.
The speaker position, which is decided by a vote within the 51-member City Council vote in January, is critical for helping advance the legislative agenda of the mayor as well as serving as a check on his power. There are seven candidates for speaker. They include Moya and Brannan, and Councilmembers Adrienne Adams of Queens, Diana Ayala of Manhattan/Bronx, and Keith Powers and Carlina Rivera of Manhattan. Councilmember-elect Gale Brewer, the current Manhattan borough president, is also a candidate for speaker.
Moya’s favored status within Adams’s inner circle was apparent at a Thursday rally ahead of a council meeting where lawmakers were expected to approve a bill that grants voting rights to legal permanent. Though Rivera also made remarks, Moya was the first elected official invited to speak at the rally by outgoing Manhattan Councilmember Ydanis Rodriguez, another close ally of Adams and the bill’s prime sponsor.
Describing himself as the first Ecuadorian official to be elected both here in New York City and across the country, Moya said this legislation would have a direct impact on his family.
David Weiner, a spokesperson for Moya, told Gothamist/WNYC that Moya welcomes any elected official or community leader to weigh in on his run for speaker.
An earlier version of this article misstated that Francisco Moya was the only speaker candidate to speak at the voting rights rally. Carlina Rivera also spoke.