NEW YORK CITY — Over the course of the mayoral race, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has rarely addressed the bombs lobbed her way by her chief antagonist in the Democratic primary, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio.
But that was before two polls released last week showed de Blasio — who has been on a multi-week streak of positive media over his left-of-center positioning in the race — tied with or beating Quinn, earning him frontrunner status for the first time.
Quinn went on the offensive against de Blasio during last Tuesday's debate — and she hasn’t stopped pillorying him since.
She lit into him over term limits — a favorite jab used by the public advocate against her — accusing him of being in favor of overturning them in 2005.
“He appeared to both agree with it and he disagreed with it,” Quinn said of de Blasio’s stance during his and Quinn’s battle to become council speaker eight years ago.
“My opponents will keep attacking me on this because they don’t want us to know about their record.”
Within minutes of her remark, her staff sent out a memo highlighting de Blasio's comments during a 2005 council speaker debate where he said, “I think after extensive public discussion, after extensive hearings, I think we should move forward with an additional four-year term through the legislative process.”
Last Wednesday, Quinn’s team escalated the attack — rolling out a multi-pronged offensive targeting de Blasio's position on taxes and the council’s living wage bill.
De Blasio has challenged Quinn on the living wage bill, claiming the speaker stalled the bill’s passage while also blunting the scope of the legislation.
“We need real living wage legislation, not the watered-down version we got last year that only covers a few hundred workers,” de Blasio said in a July statement criticizing a Quinn ad that prominently featured the passage of the bill.
In response, Quinn campaign surrogate Stewart Appelbaum, the head of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union — one of the bill’s biggest backers and a Quinn endorser — took de Blasio to task over what Appelbaum called “a tale of two de Blasios.”
“When we were waging the fight to pass a living wage bill, Bill de Blasio didn’t show up to a single rally, didn’t testify once, didn’t send a letter of support and our pleas for his support fell on deaf ears until the very last moment when he saw a poll that showed it had widespread support,” Appelbaum said in a statement.
On taxes, de Blasio has called for an increase on the wealthy in the city to help pay for universal pre-kindergarten and expanded after school programs. During the debate and after, de Blasio has challenged Quinn for her plan to make small loans available to help families pay for childcare.
“It's stunning that Speaker Quinn would propose even more middle class-crushing debt instead of asking the wealthiest to do just a little more,” de Blasio said in a statement Tuesday.
But Quinn and others point to de Blasio’s past statements about taxing the city’s wealthy, particularly Wall Street, as a classic flip-flop.
"Punishing Wall Street, taxing Wall Street into oblivion, couldn't be worse for New York City, and I oppose that," was what de Blasio reportedly told a business group in 2010. “I know Wall Street has been and must always be a bulwark of our local economy."
Dan Levitan, a de Blasio campaign spokesman, responded to the new assertiveness of the Quinn campaign and its focus on de Blasio’s record.
“New Yorkers want change from the Bloomberg and Quinn years," Levitan said. "So rather than try to defend her record of overturning term limits, cutting after school programs and doing nothing as stop-and-frisk raged out of control, Speaker Quinn's campaign is now launching misleading attacks to distract from the fact that she has been the mayor's chief political ally for years."