The race for City Council speaker, at least in Mark Weprin’s case, is swerving between the backrooms and the airwaves.
The Queens councilman–in a move that separates him from his rivals in the inside-baseball race–has pitched his candidacy in extended interviews on both NY1 and its Spanish-language affiliate, NY1 Noticias, in the past week. What advantage this lends Mr. Weprin in his quest to become the second-most powerful pol in the city is not immediately clear, but the gregarious councilman is more than willing to talk openly about why he thinks he should win.
“I have been embracing the media a little bit,” Mr. Weprin told Politicker today. “I thought it was a good opportunity to talk about why I’m the best candidate. I feel confident I have a lot to offer. It’s nice opportunity for something that may or may not have an influence over the voters.”
“Look, I wish I could say I had such charming good looks and that would definitely carry the day,” Mr. Weprin jokingly added. “I have convinced myself I am the best candidate without a doubt. That’s a good start. Now my job is to convince other people of that. Obviously we’re not there yet.”
The voters, in this case, are not the viewing public, but the incoming 51 members of the council. With a bevy of forums, including one also televised on NY1, the council members have been able to feel out the top contenders, including Council members Dan Garodnick and Melissa Mark-Viverito, using more than the typical backroom chats.
Jerry Skurnik, a Democratic consultant, said he thought the strategy of hitting the airwaves would benefit Mr. Weprin.
“In a real election, the reality is, one vote doesn’t matter. In this election, one vote may matter. If one council member is impressed by what they hear or see on television, it might be worth it,” said Mr. Skurnik.
NY1′s political director, Bob Hardt, told Politicker that all of the speaker candidates had been or would be invited to appear on the station’s English and Spanish-language affiliates. Mr. Weprin said he was invited by NY1 for extended interviews and gladly accepted. Mr. Garodnick told Politicker that NY1 Noticias had invited him as well, but that a scheduling conflict had kept him from making an appearance (Mr. Garodnick, like Ms. Mark-Viverito, is able to speak Spanish.) Ms. Mark-Viverito did not immediately return a request for comment.
On NY1 Noticas, Mr. Weprin, who is the son of a Spanish-speaking Cuban mother but not fluent in Spanish, sprinkled halting Spanish phrases in his answers, hewing mostly to English. With a sizable number of Latino members in the council and a desire, among some, to select a minority speaker, Mr. Weprin also underscored one of his chief selling points: that he represents an especially diverse district in eastern Queens.
He also shed light on his own Spanish background, which is little-known to many political insiders.
“‘Ay dios mio!’ she would yell,” Mr. Weprin said on NY1 Noticias, describing his mother. “But I unfortunately I don’t–no hablo Español muy bien. It’s too bad.”