Lappin Has Strong Gay Support on East Side

In race to succeed Giff Miller, Democrat pro-LGBT, Republican wins Times nod

The hotly contest City Council race in District 5 on Manhattan’s East Side pits Democrat Jessica Lappin, former chief of staff to Speaker Gifford Miller, the current councilmember there, against Republican Joel Zinberg, a cancer surgeon.

Lappin is endorsed by the Gay and Lesbian Independent Democrats, the Stonewall Democratic Club, the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, and the Empire State Pride Agenda, as well as virtually every Democratic elected official of consequence, including out Senator Tom Duane, Assemblyman Daniel O’Donnell, and Councilwoman Christine Quinn, all three of them openly gay or lesbian. Lappin has the support of two former mayors, Ed Koch and David Dinkins, who rarely agree on anything. Her run is also strongly backed by labor unions.

Zinberg won the support of the local Log Cabin Republicans, but he does not mention LGBT or AIDS issues on his Web site—as Lappin does on hers—and did not return repeated phone calls seeking his views. He is endorsed by The New York Times and the New York Post and rated as “preferred” by Citizens Union, a nonpartisan good government advocacy group.

In a district where Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg is popular, Zinberg hopes to ride his coattails and associates himself with former Mayor Rudy Giuliani as well. Lappin has refused to endorse Democratic mayoral candidate Freddy Ferrer, saying that neither mayoral candidate has asked for her endorsement.

Asked, “Who would make a better mayor?” Lappin responded, “I’m not going to answer that.”

Dirk McCall, president of the Stonewall club, said, “Jessica’s been there for us on every single LGBT issue and she’s going to be a great councilmember.” He cited in particular her “working closely with all the clubs” on the Dignity in All Schools Act, an anti-bullying, anti-harassment measure Bloomberg refuses to enforce, and the Equal Benefits Law, which would require city contractors to offer identical benefits to same-sex and married couples and which the mayor is in court seeking to invalidate.

“My opponent doesn’t seem to be a progressive Republican,” Lappin said. “He seems to be a real Republican. I’ve never heard him speak on LGBT issues.”

Zinberg does have the support of Republican Women for Choice, but Lappin got the nod of the New York chapters of the National Abortion Rights Action League and the National Organization for Women.

Lappin is committed to “getting all city agencies to treat domestic partners the same as spouses,” urging Bloomberg to drop his appeal of a February court order directing the city to issue same-sex marriage licenses, and she wants “to make sure homeless LGBT youth have safe places to go.”

Zinberg is also running on the Liberal Party and Independence Party lines. Lappin has the Working Families Party behind her.

Transcripts of the debates between the two do not touch on LGBT and AIDS issues. Zinberg largely stressed his “real world experience,” Lappin her “record in the community.”

The Times endorsement of Zinberg read, “The Council could use more legislators from fields outside the usual ones of politics, law, and social services,” but acknowledged Lappin “has the advantage of knowing the inner workings of the Council and its players.”