4:16 pm Dec. 6, 2012
Did you hear about the "weirdest development yet in the race for mayor"?
The Observer's Hunter Walker found a magazine essay written by Chirlane McCray, Bill de Blasio's wife, back in 1979, in which she wrote about being a lesbian.
It was a perfectly fair and interesting thing for Walker, who I think is a really good reporter, to report on. McCray is a public figure who made her career in politics, plays a prominent role in her husband's campaigns and, most relevant here, chose to write an essay about discovering her sexuality for the cover of Essence magazine.
McCray issued a statement in response to the article, and that was fair, too: “In the 1970s, I identified as a lesbian, and wrote about it. In 1991, I met the love of my life, married him, and together we've raised two amazing kids. I'm reminded every day how lucky I am to have met my soulmate."
Anyone think that's a problem for Bill de Blasio? An unnamed consultant in the New York Post, in an article headlined "DE BLASIO DE MAN!", told Room 9 dean David Seifman that the revelation about McCray's old essay "doesn't help him."
Which is what consultants say, anonymously, about half-proven or possibly emerging scandals.
This is of course not a scandal. And for that matter I actually don't see why it's any less likely to help de Blasio than it is to hurt him.
De Blasio, like any reasonably capable politician, will benefit from being better known. At the moment, for many Democratic voters, he's just the tall guy who's not Christine Quinn or Bill Thompson.
The resurfacing of the Essence article means that is now part of their family's public story. As a private story, the fact that McCray identified as a lesbian and is presently married to a man with whom she's raising kids isn't even all that unusual in Brooklyn in 2012. And there's nothing wrong or hard to understand about their decision not to voluntarily make it a part of their public story since de Blasio became a candidate, whether that choice was the product of a political calculation or a personal one.
In any case, as Walker noted in his story (referring, in fact, to a very old piece I wrote about de Blasio, when he was first running for the City Council), it has been a point of pride for de Blasio that he was married to McCray, in a ceremony in Prospect Park, by a gay, interracial, interdenominational pair of ministers.
So what now? De Blasio and McCray appear to be just what they appeared to be before: an apparently happily married couple who live in Brooklyn with their public-school-educated children.
We'll hear a lot about the history-making potential of Christine Quinn's candidacy as she runs next year, which is likely to be a more effective selling-point with many liberal voters than the decidedly power-sensitive way in which she's actually governed. Likewise Bill Thompson, a likable and uncontroversial Democratic loyalist who was the nominee in 2009, whose primary bid will be premised on heavy support from black and Latino voters. And there's de Blasio, who has made his multiracial family a prominent part of his previous campaigns and, we now know, who married a woman who identified herself before she was married, very publicly, as a lesbian.
Maybe this history-making biographical stuff will be more of a wash, and the Democratic primary voters next year will make their choice based above all on who they figure would make the most capable mayor. They won't necessarily decide that candidate is Bill de Blasio. But you have to figure that proposition—the chance to compete on an even footing with his better-known opponents—is one he'd gladly take.
McCray's statement on the matter seems right to me, by the way, because it's unapologetic. I wonder if it couldn't have gone a little further, though. Something like: This certainly isn't an issue for us. If it's an issue for others, it's up to them to figure out why.