In the litigation for mayor of New York, there is an invisible limit that has never been crossed, but which has continued to be mentioned by several women candidates this year: the city has already had 109 mayors, including none were female.
For this reason, this hurdle has been in the spotlight at meetings like a recent fundraiser for Democratic candidate Kathryn Garcia.
Held online and attended by dozens of women, many of whom are veteran employees of the New York administration, the event took place last week on International Women’s Day.
But Garcia’s assignment was particularly relevant for another reason as well: on the same day two prominent lawyers were appointed to conduct an independent investigation into the sexual harassment charges against Governor Andrew Cuomo.
Former New York City Sanitation Commissioner, she made a point of celebrating this moment. “The governor of New York is showing us that it is time to see more women in positions of power,” Garcia told the group. “In 2021, there is no man for the job.”
All of the mayoral candidates spoke of the historic nature of their political campaigns, an aspect raised in their fundraising efforts and on social media.
Most recently, they also spoke about the need to end the male-dominated political culture that has opened up to the sexual harassment scandal surrounding Cuomo.
Many of the governor’s outspoken critics are women. Two Democrats, Kathryn Garcia and Maya Wiley, were among the first mayoral candidates to call for the governor’s resignation. A third, Dianne Morales, defends the impeachment of the Democrat.
Three months before the Democratic mayoral primary on June 22, the political world is teeming with discussions about the Cuomo scandals. Two of the most prominent male candidates, Andrew Yang and Eric Adams, have taken a more cautious approach, having recently said he should step down until investigations are completed.
The governor’s problems have given the candidates more ammunition to support the argument that it is time for a woman to rule New York. Candidates criticized Cuomo and shared his stories of sexual harassment and sexism in politics. And they argued that if elected, they will have a more inclusive style of leadership than Cuomo’s, empowering employees and avoiding bullying.
Former assistant to Mayor Bill de Blasio and former director of the Civil Complaints Review Board, Maya Wiley, the top candidate in polls and fundraising efforts, asked male candidates to join her in asking how to resign. “It’s clear he’s a man behaving this way,” Wiley said. “This is not an isolated mistake. This is not a bad interpretation. It’s a set of behaviors and that’s who it is. “
Political experts have many theories as to why New York is such a difficult environment for women to run for political office, from overt sexism and the big political apparatus, to the challenges of raising large sums of money.
Ruth Messinger, a former Manhattan District President, listed three obstacles she faced in 1997, when she was a Democratic candidate in the race with incumbent Republican mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Voters found her unattractive, unions were “strongholds of male hegemony” and men were reluctant to give her money, Messinger said in an interview. She recalled that in a focus group, a man commented: “I would never date her”.
Messinger had meetings with major donors and thought he had done well, then husbands sent their wives to write a check. “Women filled in with lower values.”
In the 2013 mayoral race, Christine Quinn, former New York City mayor, was first in the polls but lost to De Blasio in the Democratic primary after some voters said they believed she was hostile – a word deeply influenced by gender bias. and often used as a sexist figure, according to researchers who study women and politics.
Another issue was that Quinn had strong ties to then-mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose popularity had waned after three terms as mayor. She said she wished she could have been more genuine and embraced her reputation for being outspoken. “That has to be exactly what it takes to be the mayor of New York: to be a rubber boot foe with a heart of butter, and I follow those two things,” she said.
The first female mayors of major American cities like Chicago and Houston were elected in the 1970s and 1980s. Today, 27 of the nation’s 100 largest cities are headed by women, including Lori Lightfoot in Chicago and Keisha Lance Bottoms in Atlanta.
The candidates in New York were encouraged by the success of Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose unexpected victory in the 2018 primary, beating outgoing Democrat Joseph Bottoms, showed that women can bypass party officials and directly mobilize voters. “The great political machine is something that was built by men and for men,” says Morales. “In New York, I don’t know if we are as progressive as we like to think.”
Among the top contenders this year, two are not white: Wiley, who is black, and Morales, a former nonprofit leader who is Afro-Latin.
Women Democrats mainly focus on different issues. Morales is more of a leftist and wants to cut $ 3 billion from the police budget. Wiley highlights his history of working with civil rights and has a plan to create 100,000 jobs. Garcia highlights his experience in government and wants to improve basic services and the quality of life in the city. Another candidate, Loree Sutton, a retired army general, dropped out of the Democratic race last week.
As the candidates continue to appear on an endless series of online forums, the candidates seem to bond. At a forum where candidates were asked to nominate a second name to choose the mayor, Wiley and Morales pointed out.
Morales says he’s deeply convinced it’s time for a non-white woman to be elected.
“There is a level of solidarity that we all feel for each other, a recognition of the barriers and obstacles that we overcome on a daily basis just to be able to be in this space,” he explained.
Women have made strides in state legislatures and in Congress, but some voters still can’t imagine a woman as president, governor or mayor, says Debbie Walsh, director of the Center for American Women and Politics at the University. Rutgers.
“When you are the ultimate authority, there has to be a sense of strength and authority,” says Walsh. “This is one of the difficulties that women face: the stereotype that they do not have enough strength or determination.”
This stereotype is seen as particularly irritating by Kathryn Garcia, who was De Blasio’s manager of crisis resolution, taking over the management of the New York housing agency and managing the city’s food program during the pandemic.
She said people constantly underestimate her as a mayoral candidate and some have already suggested she could be a great vice mayor. “It is frustrating to be seen as the most qualified person for the job and automatically categorized as someone who should be the assistant of a less qualified man,” she said.