Under Caribbean skies, New York Power Brokers are shaping a crucial race

ISLA VERDE BEACH, PR – Candidates openly proposed to allies at lavish hotel pools. They held parties not to be missed, sometimes at the exact same time.

Party insiders updated spreadsheets to keep track of new commitments from supporters.

The feverish battle to become the next chairman of New York City’s council will not be formally resolved until January, when the 51-man grand council will vote. But it was in full bloom last week at the tropical political rally known as Somos.

The winner will take on the second most powerful job in the city council, a critical accompanying role for the elected mayor, Eric Adams, who takes office in January. Sir. Adams, a center-right Democrat, has said he wants to be a “get things done” mayor, and the next speaker could help him set his agenda, set up roadblocks or try to push him to the left.

With seven well-known candidates as a lecturer, the race has already begun to secure alliances and votes, and that work was exhibited in Puerto Rico, where discussions of possible endorsements are known to depend on committee assignments and even office space.

Keith Powers, a councilor from Manhattan who is running as a speaker, posted a selfie on Twitter from the beach with Joe Borelli, a Republican member of Staten Island whose party is likely to control at least four seats. Gale Brewer, Manhattan City President and former councilwoman who was just re-elected to the council, held meeting after meeting at a table outside the Sonesta Hotel.

“It’s organized chaos,” said Justin Brannan, a Brooklyn councilor who is also seeking the post. “You have the whole political class in New York together, so it’s a lot of gossip and a lot of conversations, and it’s economical because we’re all in the same place.”

Mr. Brannan, a former punk rock guitarist, had been considered a frontrunner. Then came a surprise on election night: He followed his Republican opponent by 255 votes. He spent most of the trip reassuring participants that he would win once the postal ballots had been counted.

In a hotel lobby on Thursday, Mr. Brannan caught sight of Henry Garrido, the leader of District Council 37, New York City’s largest public workers’ union, and Mark Levine, the future Manhattan city president. They discussed the speech race, and Mr Brannan intervened quickly.

“We have the votes,” he told them. “Everything is fine.”

At a working event with the elected mayor two days later, Mr. Garrido, at Mr. Brannan might want to survive, but that his close race in southwest Brooklyn had changed the race’s “plate tectonics.”

“There has been a renewed sense of choosing a woman and a colored woman,” Mr. Garrido.

In fact, Carlina Rivera celebrated being re-elected to her Lower Manhattan seat at a crowded speakeasy inside a beach hotel, noting that she won “overwhelmingly in a landslide” – a phrase that some of those present saw as a blow to Mr. Brannan.

Less than a mile away, Diana Ayala, a councilor from East Harlem, held an outdoor soiree surrounded by palm trees, highlighting her story as a single mother who once lived in the shelter.

“I hope you have your dancing shoes with you!” said Mrs. Ayala as the crowd went upstairs to hear live music.

New members of the city council made sure to participate in both parties – to weigh their options and not to antagonize a possible frontrunner by not showing up.

The competitive rally was the main topic of gossip at the annual Somos conference, where elected officials, lobbyists and union leaders meet to socialize and reach agreements. Mr. Adams told reporters he was not involved in the race – though it could be difficult for him to resist.

The city council gets its first female majority ever – with women expected to take 31 out of 51 seats – and it is decidedly young and diverse. Members are expected to elect the next speaker at the end of December, and few publicly support anyone at this time.

“The big open question is whether the elected mayor Adams gets involved, and if he does, I think it would be crucial in many ways,” said Corey Johnson, the current council president who will leave office due to time constraints. . “But I think he keeps his powder dry and lets the race play out and sees if the outside players will make their move. It feels like a bit of a waiting match right now.”

Ms. Rivera, a former community organizer who has focused on topics such as sexual harassment, has had to address the perception that Mr. Adams does not favor her for the job. She did not support Mr. Adams during the Democratic primary for mayor, in contrast to Mr. Brannan and Francisco Moya, a Queens member who is also speaking.

“Welcome to Puerto Rico, Mr. Mayor!” Ms. Rivera wrote on Twitter from Somos with a picture of her smiling with Mr. Adams.

A coalition of five unions, including those representing nurses and hotel workers, is also holding power over the race, having used generously to help get many members elected. The coalition, known as Labor Strong 2021, has not yet decided on a candidate.

Several power brokers have indicated their preferences: Mrs. Rivera is backed by Representative Nydia M. Velázquez; Mrs Ayala has the support of Representative Adriano Espaillat; Representative Gregory Meeks, Queens’ party leader, prefers Adrienne Adams, a Queens councilor who is close to Mr. Adams and wants to be the city’s first black speaker.

Mr. Johnson won the job in 2018 in large part due to support from Mr. Meeks’ predecessor in Queens, Joseph Crowley, the powerful congressman who was deposed in the Democratic primary by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez later that year.

The setting in Puerto Rico also drew attention to a recent push for a speaker of Latino descent. Ms. Ayala was born in Puerto Rico, Ms. Rivera is of Puerto Rican descent and Mr. Moya is of Ecuadorian descent.

The race focuses less on ideology and more on the relationships the candidates have built with colleagues and the support they offered new members in their bid to be elected. Many of the candidates are not far apart politically: Ms. Adams, Ms. Ayala, Mr. Brannan, Mr. Powers and Ms. Rivera are all part of the Council’s progressive caucus.

Mr. Borelli, who is likely to become the next Republican minority leader on the council, said he gets along well with several speaker candidates, even though they have different policies.

“I very much disagree with all of them on many things, but it’s nice to have the luxury of telling them to their face how I feel,” he said.

Sir. Moya, who played football with Mr. Borelli, while working together in Albany, kept a relentless schedule on Somos, highlighting his ties to Mr. Adams and argued that he was the only candidate with a “track record for working across the political spectrum.”

“I did not even see the beach to be honest with you,” he said.

Luis Ferré-Sadurní contributed reporting.

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