NEW YORK — The city’s already raucous mayoral campaign turned ugly Wednesday when Christine Quinn trashed what she said was an attack from the wife of rival Bill de Blasio over Quinn's ability to connect with mothers because she has no children herself.
Quinn’s ire came after New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd quoted de Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, suggesting that the City Council speaker, who is openly gay, has struggled to connect with female voters because she is “not the kind of person” you can talk to about issues related to families.
The de Blasio campaign quickly insisted McCray had been “misquoted,” and the Times updated Dowd’s column to reflect her full remarks.
“Well, I am a woman, and she is not speaking to the issues I care about and I think a lot of women feel the same way. I don’t see her speaking to the concerns of women who have to take care of children at a young age or send them to school and after school, paid sick days, workplace, she is not speaking to any of those issues. What can I say?” McCray, a mother of two, told Dowd when asked why women aren’t rallying behind Quinn’s campaign. “And she is not accessible, she is not the kind of person who you can talk to and go up to and have a conversation with about those things, and I suspect that other women feel the same thing I’m feeling.”
But Quinn didn’t back off her criticism of McCray’s comments, telling reporters at an afternoon press conference outside City Hall that “the sentiment” of McCray’s full response was the same and that she found it “saddening and troubling.”
“I don’t understand why Ms. McCray or (de Blasio) would allow statements to be made that clearly indicate that I am somehow not able to listen to women, to listen to families, to serve women and families because I don’t have children,” Quinn said.
She pointed to “countless conversations” she’d had with “family members, with grandmothers, with fathers (and) with children themselves” that had influenced her career in politics — including her efforts to pass a law requiring mandatory kindergarten for New York City kids.
Quinn, who is vying to be the city’s first female and openly gay mayor, is usually a boisterous presence on the campaign trail, but she became quiet and emotional when talking about McCray’s comments. Quinn told reporters she had read the column while at home with her wife, Kim Catullo, and that they were both “sad” and “hurt” by what she said were “inappropriate comments.”
“It was hurtful to think that the integrity of our lives, the integrity of decisions that we make about our lives or our family were called into question by other people in a political context,” Quinn said.
But Bill Hyers, de Blasio’s campaign manager, accused Quinn and her campaign of trying to “distort and confuse” what McCray was saying.
“Her actual comments were about Speaker Quinn’s unwillingness to listen to the people on education, and paid sick leave, and any suggestion otherwise is disingenuous and absurd,” Hyers said in a statement.
But Quinn said she found McCray’s longer comments just as troubling — though she declined to answer a question about whether she considered de Blasio’s wife “a hypocrite.” McCray has been open about the fact that she was a lesbian before she married her husband.
“I think it is inappropriate and really saddening for people to comment on other people’s families,” Quinn said. “I have a family… My wife and I, we are a family. Our 10 nieces and nephews… My father and I, Kim’s dad, we are a family.”
She added, “People make personal decisions for medical reasons, all kinds of reasons for why people do and don’t have children. And no one should comment about that or make it a political issue. And no one should comment on my family as something that makes me less capable of being an elected official. I have delivered, I’ve cared about and advocated for and fought for the families and women of New York City every day of my career.”
The flap comes as family has become a focus of the mayoral campaign in the final weeks before the Sept. 10 primary. Catullo, who was Quinn’s partner for 11 years before she married the mayoral hopeful last year, edged into the political spotlight this week with several interviews and appearances on the campaign trail.
Meanwhile, de Blasio has made his multiracial family a centerpiece of his campaign. McCray is black, and their children are biracial. His son, Dante, who is 15, has starred in two television ads for his father.