A collective of Latino elected officials and labor leaders rallied to boost Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito’s speaker candidacy today, comparing her to President Barack Obama and celebrating her closeness with organized labor.
The rally, held at the headquarters of 32BJ SEIU, served as a reminder to the many council members who were not backing Ms. Mark-Viverito that influential forces were coalescing around her candidacy.
Those forces were also eager to remind her opposition that they are standing in the way of history. If elected by her 50 colleagues on January 8, she’d be the first Hispanic City Council speaker. (Ms. Mark-Viverito did not attend today’s event.)
“This is a historic moment. It truly is. I never thought I would see an African-American president in my lifetime. So that was our Obama moment,” said Congressman José Serrano. “This with Melissa is our Obama moment. Melissa has the ability, has the talent, has the understanding, has represented a district in the Bronx and in East Harlem that represents all that is needed in New York City. She has the respect of and the support of her colleagues and the support of labor unions.”
Led by former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer, who was the first Latino to win a major party’s nomination for mayor in 2005, the rally featured the leaders of 32BJ, the heavily Hispanic building workers’ union, and the Central Labor Council. Behind the scenes, labor has aggressively pushed for Ms. Mark-Viverito, the most liberal and labor-friendly candidate in what is now a two-horse race with Councilman Dan Garodnick.
Although Ms. Mark-Viveritio appears to have already consolidated enough support to win the speaker’s race, 20 council members have yet to back her candidacy. Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras, a Queens lawmaker bucking her own county organization to support Ms. Mark-Viverito, acknowledged this reality today while again returning to the topic of Ms. Mark-Viverito’s Puerto Rican heritage.
“I give my support to Melissa even though, you know, my borough isn’t leaning that way. Not yet. We still have time,” Ms. Ferreras said. “I give my support because she’s qualified and a Latina. Because she’s smart and a Latina. Because she’s passionate and a Latina.”
After the rally, a spokesman for Mr. Garodnick blasted out a joint statement from three Hispanic members reiterating their support for Mr. Garodnick. Like the Queens Democratic Party, the Bronx organization is firmly behind Mr. Garodnick.
“The ethnic identity of the Speaker is far less important than his/her ability to stand up and fight. And while we largely support the Mayor’s agenda, it is critical for the Latino community that we have a City Council that is empowered to do its work independently. Dan Garodnick has a long record of progressive activism, independence, and a proven ability to work with people across the spectrum. He will be a great advocate for Latinos, and all New Yorkers, and we look forward to electing him Speaker of the City Council next week,” said Council members Annabel Palma, Fernando Cabrera and Maria del Carmen Arroyo.