NY News Day reports that Corey Johnson was elected speaker of the City Council Wednesday.
Johnson, who becomes the city’s second most powerful elected official, is a Manhattan Democrat who is gay and HIV positive. He takes over from Melissa Mark-Viverito, who left the job because of term limits.
The newly elected leader is expected to pose a challenge to Mayor de Blasio — saying he won’t hesitate to push through bills over the mayor’s veto, which did not happen under his predecessor — although their progressive ideological views largely align.
Johnson, 35, worked aggressively to shore up support in what had once been a wide-open field of eight candidates.
He was all but assured of the job after he got the blessing of the Queens and Bronx Democratic parties, particularly Queens boss Joe Crowley, who reclaimed his traditional role as Council kingmaker four years after being shut out when Melissa Mark-Viverito was selected for the job.
Many of his seven rivals quickly dropped out, though Councilman Jumaane Williams (D-Brooklyn) did not concede before Wednesday, and Councilwoman Inez Barron (D-Brooklyn) mounted a last-minute bid to challenge Johnson.
The biggest controversy over his selection centered around race, with some Council members and civil rights groups objecting to giving the job to a white man. Three of the four citywide officials are now white and male.
“Black, Latino, and Asians are the majority in this city, yet we have never ever had a black speaker,” Barron, who vowed to stay in the race until the end, said on the steps of City Hall Wednesday. “It’s our turn now.”
Councilman Jumaane Williams slams pick of white man for speaker Williams, who is also rumored as a possible primary challenger to Gov. Cuomo, opted to skip the vote and instead attend Cuomo’s State of the State speech in Albany. “He needs to hear directly from the governor how he plans to address the issues of transportation, housing, infrastructure and gun violence,” his spokesman Kevin Fagan said.
Another candidate for the post, Brooklyn Councilman Robert Cornegy, stayed in the race for more than a week after the deal to anoint Johnson, but eventually offered his support. He’s now believed to be angling for a powerful committee position.
“The black community is the base of the Democratic Party. And we were given short shrift,” said the Rev. Jacques Andre DeGraff, associate pastor of Harlem’s Canaan Baptist Church, who backed Cornegy. “Every other community has seen itself reflected in the leadership decisions, except for the black community. And that’s an unacceptable return on our investment.”
Johnson, who has spoken openly about his past struggles with alcohol and drug addiction, has chaired the health committee for the last four years, and represents Chelsea, the Village and Hell’s Kitchen.
De Blasio, who played a central role in engineering Mark-Viverito’s victory four years ago, played little role this time around, with the deal sealed while he was away in Iowa promoting his national agenda. He later endorsed Johnson.