If you’re not a New Yorker, you might think Anthony aka “Carlos Danger” Weiner is the only candidate in the upcoming mayoral election race. All the air has been sucked out of media coverage of who might take over from the current New York City mayor, multi-gazillionaire Michael Bloomberg, as former Congressman Weiner has had to share with us — again — his online exploits that, for most of us, have been just TMI.
As we’ve watched the saga of whether Weiner can find political relevance again and whether his lovely wife Huma will continue to stand by her man, I’ve been pondering whether this has been good or bad for one truly notable candidate in the race — New York City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.
Earlier this summer, as some in the national media were starting to turn their attention to the race, Quinn was getting the lion’s share of coverage, but it wasn’t all positive. As is often the case in our 21st century of quick-hit reporting, stories about Quinn focused more on her personal foibles than on her past political record.
Much of the coverage can be summed up this way — the candidate is a woman and a lesbian! She has a temper! She’s not perfect!
You know, reporters often like to write pieces that focus on a woman candidate’s temperament in ways they almost never do with men, using words like “volatile” and “controlling.” It’s not often that you read a story about a man entitled, “Offstage [candidate] Isn’t Afraid to Let Fury Fly.”
Clearly some campaign publicist saw the need to “soften” things up after that story that stopped short of calling Quinn a bitch. But then the pendulum swung the other way, as her softer and more human side exposed with Quinn’s admitted battles with alcoholism and bulimia. I’ve been seriously troubled by the coverage of Quinn’s candidacy — where a woman is a more attractive candidate because at one point in her life she drank too much and had an eating disorder.
This is what passes for political coverage today — and it’s not exactly helpful for a candidate who probably has bigger political goals on her agenda than just being the mayor of New York City.
So who is Quinn really? What does she stand for? She wants to raise the legal high school drop out age in New York City to 18. She’s advocated for allowing farmer’s markets to accept food stamps. She voted in favor of the city’s Tenant Protection Act, which allows renters to sue their landlords for harassment. She took some heat as she flip-flopped on whether the city should pass an ordinance that would provide a minimum amount of paid sick days for certain workers. While she ultimately allowed a vote on the paid sick leave law, she initially blocked it from coming up for a council vote for over 1,000 days, some say because Quinn received large campaign contributions from those who opposed the bill.
With the primary just a few short weeks away, Quinn has to find a way to make herself relevant — or sensational — in the eyes of the media. Sadly, she’ll need to channel a little of her life story to the mainstream media to pull the attention away from her primary challengers, including Weiner. If only the media could focus on her accomplishments and political views — as well as those of the other mayoral candidates — to help the voters make a decision as the Big Apple moves away from the Bloomberg era.
Joanne Bamberger is the publisher and editor-in-chief of The Broad Side. She was formerly known around these internet parts as PunditMom, but now she is trying to be herself. She is the author of Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America (an Amazon.com bestseller and now available in E-book form!). She was recently awarded the Campaigns & Elections Magazine/CampaignTech 2013 Advocacy Innovator Award for her research and writing on the power and influence of women online. Joanne is a “recovering lawyer,” but she is still well-versed in her litigator skills and courtroom practices.