The battle for New York City Council speaker took another twist on Tuesday as four candidates dropped out of the race and threw their support behind Adrienne Adams, a Council member from Queens who has, up until recently, been viewed as a quiet contender.
Gale Brewer, Justin Brannan, Keith Powers and Diana Ayala issued a joint statement saying they were withdrawing their candidacies and coalescing around Adams, who would be the first Black speaker in Council history. The news came one day after the Daily News reported unnamed sources saying the four had decided to back Adams.
With that group bowing out, the field has now narrowed to three candidates, including Adams: Francisco Moya, another Queens member who has the backing of Mayor-elect Eric Adams, and Carlina Rivera, who represents part of Manhattan and has not gained much traction. On Tuesday, a spokesperson for Rivera said she intends to stay in the race.
The shift represented the strategic maneuverings around the still fluid race for speaker, which is considered the second most powerful role in city government and one critical to helping the mayor accomplish his legislative agenda. At least 26 votes are needed to win the race for speaker, which is exclusively decided by all 51 council members. The vote is scheduled in January, shortly after all Council members are sworn in for a new term.
“I'm proud of the race I ran, but moreover inspired by the future I know we can create if and when we are united as a body,” Brannan said in the statement.
In the same joint statement, Adams claimed she had secured the sufficient number of votes to win the race for speaker.
“Today is a historic day for New York City. After much discussion and collaboration with my colleagues, I am honored to have received the necessary votes to become the next Speaker of the New York City Council," Adams said.
But shortly afterwards, Moya asserted that he had collected the majority of votes.
“I look forward to leading this body into a brighter future for our great city,” he tweeted.
Despite initially saying he would stay out of the race, Eric Adams and his advisers have reportedly been working behind the scenes in support of Moya. But their campaign has run up against opposition from other members as well as powerful unions.
For the mayor-elect, the race for speaker amounts to the first test of his political power — and one that could set the tone for his first term in office.
It may also prove to be a distraction. The effort by Eric Adams and his surrogates to anoint the next speaker comes at a moment of intensifying pressure on the incoming administration.
With less than three weeks until his inauguration, Adams has rolled out only one significant appointment, that of schools chancellor, which he announced last week would be the longtime education leader David Banks. Questions remain over dozens of remaining leadership positions in New York City’s sprawling government with a $102 billion budget. The transition to a new administration comes at a pivotal moment for the city, as virus cases are surging and the recovery is lagging the rest of the country.
The latest scrutiny comes after the mayor-elect suddenly announced a trip to Ghana — timing that was criticized as being out of step with the urgent priorities he's facing. Following his election in 2013, Mayor Bill de Blasio had already announced his police commissioner and top deputy mayor by the first week of December.
“It's very important to know how to operationalize a city,” said Camille Rivera, a former deputy commissioner for the Department of Homeless Services who now works as a Democratic consultant. “And if you have a different vision that you want to move forward, the cogs in the wheel of bureaucracy really do take time.”
During an interview on WPIX-11 on Tuesday, the mayor-elect said he had already made his decision on the new police commissioner — following a national search that reportedly included candidates from Seattle, Philadelphia and Newark — and that an announcement would come this week.
He was later scheduled to meet with President Joe Biden at the White House as part of a briefing for U.S. mayors.
Reached for comment, Evan Thies, a spokesperson for the mayor-elect, did not specify when the announcements would be made.
“Key announcements will be made soon and transition is well on its way to having the government prepared to hit the ground running on Day 1,” he said in a text.