Councilman Brad Lander’s bid for city comptroller is looking increasingly more like a long shot.
His chances took a big hit when City Council Speaker Corey Johnson decided to exit the mayor’s race and instead run for comptroller. But is was Lander decision to attack Johnson for “stalling” and “playing politics” on several pieces of legislation that may have sunk his campaign.
Lander didn’t just mention this criticism to a reporter or even bring it up in a press conference, he decided to launch an entire website dedicated to Johnson’s “shortcomings” as speaker.
“What’s the Story,” Corey?” lists nearly 20 pieces of legislation Lander claims Johnson failed to advance to the detriment of the residents of a city looking to recover from a pandemic.
A lot of those pieces of legislation were sponsored by Lander’s colleagues, who he apparently didn’t check with before he put all of this information out on the Internet for the whole world to Google.
Many of them actually endorsed Lander for the position before Johnson announced he would enter the race, but now many of them, miffed that he included their legislation on his website, are pulling their support.
Council members Margaret Chin and Debi Rose are two of his fellow council members who said Lander’s repeated attacks on the speaker and the work of the City Council caused them to reconsider their endorsements.
They specifically pointed to what they called Lander’s misrepresentation of the progress being made to support paid sick leave for gig workers, citing that the council had already passed two paid leave bills.
“As City Council members, we all know that getting legislation passed requires a lot of time and effort,” they wrote in a joint statement. “Getting support from other council members and the chairs of the committees is important to getting any bill passed. To insinuate that the speaker is currently holding back the bill is not true.
“We recognize that Brad has the right to run his campaign as he sees fit,” they added. “However, we disagree with his campaign’s continuing to misrepresent the work of the council and its speaker. Therefore, we are withdrawing our support for his campaign for Comptroller.”
Councilman Francisco Moya of Queens also criticized Lander for his characterization of the work of the City Council and Johnson after one of the bills he is sponsoring was also listed on the website. He tweeted that he would like to be left out of “this hit job.”
Lander argues the council members are distancing themselves from his critique of Johnson because they fear retribution from the speaker, who controls discretionary funding.
However, with the new budget process already in the works and Johnson term-limited out of office at the end of the year, it’s not clear how much Johnson could actually retaliate against council members who support Lander even if he was inclined to do so.
Even if Johnson loses the comptroller’s race, he presumably has further political ambitions, so alienating potential future political allies by withholding discretionary funds from their districts when he won’t be able to reap the benefits of that carrot-and-stick approach in the future because he will no longer be the speaker of the City Council doesn’t make a whole lot of sense.
Lander’s colleagues are more than likely calling him out because they aren’t running for comptroller, and therefore have no reason to get embroiled in a heated campaign for an office they won’t hold.