Quinn’s Weiner Fumble

She broke a cardinal rule of managing an opponent’s scandal.

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City Council Speaker Christine Quinn listens during a discussion about health and wellness on Tuesday, May 14, 2013

New York City Democratic mayoral candidate Christine Quinn's interview with Andrea Mitchell on NBC News was a quintessential example of a politician talking out of the side of her mouth. Mitchell asked few questions, instead letting Quinn take viewers on a five minute, two segment hike through a barren forest of stumps.

To Ms. Quinn's credit, she is the front-runner. She reclaimed her nine-point lead over Anthony Weiner, and has used her modicum of national recognition to boost her media presence and campaign fundraising activities.

Quinn is adept at credit claiming, sometimes to the point of ad nausea, and she has put together a top-notch campaign team. She has taken credit for everything from Mayor Michael Bloomberg's smoking ban to holding the ladder for City Hall's janitors when they change the bulbs. She has hired two rising stars in NYC politics: Matt Tepper as her campaign manager and Erik Bottcher as her public liaison. Tepper ran Rep. Carolyn Maloney's successful 2010 campaign and Bottcher was instrumental in advocating Gov. Andrew Cuomo progressive agenda while serving as his special assistant for community affairs.

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Quinn hides how much influence the city's real estate industry has over her agenda. The biggest example of which is her promise to encourage the construction and development of more affordable housing options in the city's outer boroughs.  Leading real estate executives donated a significant portion of her current $7.5 million campaign haul.

How has this relationship played out during Quinn's time as City Council Speaker? City & State Magazine reported earlier this week that Quinn has helped direct $130-to-$170 million in city funding to Friends of the Highline, an organization that, on the upside, turned the city's rusty West Side elevated rail bridge into a world class park, but, on the downside, worked with Quinn to weaken zoning laws. That helped the real estate industry build unaffordable, park-viewed housing options for the city's high-class buyers. Quinn has also blocked all efforts to put fire sprinklers in New York pet stores, despite a long-list of fires that have killed hundreds of pets. It would be a much needed, morally just rule – but an expensive one for building owners.

Quinn broke a cardinal rule in her Mitchell interview: don't make direct statements on the scandal problems of your opponent. Instead of delegating this job to one of her surrogates, she called on Anthony Weiner to leave the race because his staying in weakens the integrity of the electoral process.

[Weigh in: Should Anthony Weiner Still Run for Mayor?]

Let's be honest, she wants him out because if he can recover from the latest reveal of, pardon my expression, his "PP-selfies," he could trigger a run-off in this fall's Democratic primary. Run-off campaigns are notoriously expensive, and would give the Republican candidate an edge on November 5th.

Quinn needs to be more honest about her agenda, and stay out of the Weiner flap. Otherwise, she's going to give the press good cause to peel the layers back on her own list of questionable activities, ranging from her management of the city's slush fund, which came under fire in 2007, and the complaint Brooklyn attorney Garfield Heskop filed last week regarding reimbursements she received for travel to the Gay Lesbian Victory Fund's fundraising events.

Voters must also make efforts to parse through Ms. Quinn rhetoric to accomplish their number one mission during this campaign: Learn as much about the candidate's records to cast an informed vote on November 5.

  • Read Mercedes Schlapp: Cleaning Up Steve King's Mess
  • Read Ford O'Connell: Why Does Huma Abedin Stay With Anthony Weiner?
  • Check out U.S. News Weekly, an insider's guide to politics and policy