Gentile Eyeing Council Speaker Position

Councilman Vincent Gentile, Source: council.nyc.gov
Councilman Vincent Gentile, Source: council.nyc.gov

Councilman Vincent Gentile has let it be known that he may be interested in becoming the next speaker of the City Council. Crain’s New York is reporting that Gentile, who has served in the Council since 2003, has aspirations to lead the body, should he be elected to a third and final term this November.

Gentile was forthright about his desire to lead the City Council, signaling that the timing was right to cull a speaker from Southern Brooklyn.

“I think it’s time for an outer-borough candidate to be speaker, and I’m someone who’s already been around for two speakers,” Gentile told Crain’s. “And, there’s going to be a lot of new Council members coming in from Brooklyn.”

Crain’s noted several factors playing in the favor of Gentile’s potential candidacy including, as Gentile mentioned, the election of many new Brooklyn Council members who would prefer a one-term speaker and the positive reaction to Gentile by Brooklyn Democratic boss Frank Seddio. According to Crain’s, Gentile’s reign would serve as the bridge to another prominent political leader from Southern Brooklyn, Councilman David Greenfield, though none of these plans were set in stone:

One Brooklyn political insider floated the idea that Mr. Gentile could serve as speaker for one term, and then be followed in 2017 by Brooklyn Councilman David Greenfield. “Seddio wants Greenfield to be speaker in 2017. So they’re trying to shoehorn Vinnie in there as a placeholder since he just has one term left,” the insider said. The scenario would be more viable if the Queens Democratic Party decides it would rather have patronage jobs and plum committee chairmanships than the speakership itself. Mr. Gentile has also been supporting the mayoral bid of Bill de Blasio, the clear frontrunner to be the next mayor.
The attorney for the Brooklyn Democratic Party, Frank Carone, said that Mr. Seddio had not made any decisions about which candidate to back. “The party has not decided to support any candidate, including Vincent Gentile, though it’s certainly possible that would eventually happen,” Mr. Carone said. “We’re evaluating many quality candidates.”

Despite the potential preference of party bosses, Gentile’s road to Council speaker isn’t guaranteed. First, Gentile has to win reelection against Republican opponent John Quaglione, an aide of powerful State Senator Marty Golden, who himself unseated Gentile from the State Senate in 2002. Gentile admitted that defeating Quaglione isn’t in the bag and that serious talk of him becoming speaker is premature.

“All of this is just bar-stool talk at this point,” Gentile told Crain’s.

The prominent position would also open up Gentile’s history, both political and private, to closer scrutiny, as Crain’s details:

Despite his long tenure in the council, he has not been a particularly powerful legislator, and years ago he was ridiculed by tabloid stories, notably after voting against the Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act as a lame-duck state senator. Attorney Tom Shanahan told the Gay City News that in 1994 he had had an affair with Mr. Gentile, saying he made it public because he felt the politician’s vote had betrayed the gay community. Mr. Gentile, who represented a conservative district, denied being gay. In 2004, a 26-year-old male member of his staff accused the councilman of sexually harassing him. A council ethics panel cleared Mr. Gentile. As a councilman, he has supported gay-rights measures.
A Gentile bid would also face political challenges. The Brooklyn Democratic Party is fractured between members of the Progressive Caucus and those loyal to Mr. Seddio. One of the members loyal to the Brooklyn machine, Sara Gonzalez, lost her Democratic primary election bid to the Progressive-backed Carlos Menchaca. The party may end up backing a candidate from another borough, such as Manhattan’s Dan Garodnick or Annabel Palma of the Bronx.
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