Would-Be Speakers Set to Meet Progressive Caucus, Johnson Sidesteps Question on Williams

Councilman-elect Corey Johnson. | SAM SPOKONY

Councilman-elect Corey Johnson. | SAM SPOKONY

The City Council’s Progressive Caucus — nearly half of whom have not yet taken office — will convene on Sunday, November 24 to interview the candidates for speaker.

Moments after the most recent speaker candidate debate took place on the evening of November 21, gay Councilman-elect Corey Johnson of Chelsea, one of the caucus’ new members, said the progressives will be meeting with all seven declared candidates and added he “look[s] forward” to bringing up issues regarding LGBT rights during those discussions.

Those vying for speaker are Councilmembers Dan Garodnick, Melissa Mark-Viverito, and Inez Dickens of Manhattan, Annabel Palma and James Vacca of the Bronx, Mark Weprin of Queens, and Jumaane Williams of Brooklyn.

When asked for his thoughts on recent news coverage that Williams — also a member of the Progressive Caucus — does not support marriage equality and abortion rights, Johnson said those are “important issues,” but declined to declare he would absolutely reject Williams as a candidate as long as his views on those issues do not change.

Earlier in the day, East Village Councilwoman Rosie Mendez, a lesbian, told Capital New York she would not vote for Williams if he does not support marriage equality and abortion rights.

“He has to, for me, affirmatively come out and say that he supports gay marriage and he supports a woman's right to choose for me to consider him in this role,” Mendez said in that interview.

Johnson told this newspaper, “It’s clear where I stand on those issues.” But when asked what he would do if Williams were to tell the Progressive Caucus on Sunday that he is against marriage equality and abortion, Johnson was noncommittal.

“I don’t want to talk in terms of hypotheticals,” he said.

This past weekend, 20 members of the Progressive Caucus decided they would vote as a unified bloc on a choice for the next Council speaker, according to a New York Times report.

Williams, who formally entered the race this week, was not included onstage during the November 21 debate. That was because only six people could fit into the view of the television cameras, according to sources who had spoken with representatives of NY1, which sponsored and moderated the debate. Since Williams was the last candidate to arrive at the event, he had to sit with the audience throughout the debate, and was later interviewed separately by NY1.