All Eyes On Same-Sex Wedding Of Mayoral Hopeful

Christine Quinn is the early favorite in the New York City mayoral contest for next year, assuming current Mayor Michael Bloomberg finally steps down after three terms. Quinn is also the first openly gay woman to be speaker of the city council. So everything about her wedding to longtime partner Kim Catullo on Saturday has been surrounded by politics.

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When the speaker of the New York City Council gets married it is generally not a big deal. But Christine Quinn happens to be the first openly gay council speaker in New York's history. And she is considered the frontrunner to be the city's next mayor.

So Quinn's wedding this weekend is attracting lots of attention, as we hear from NPR's Joel Rose.

JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: Christine Quinn held a press conference at City Hall this week about a bill to regulate the banking industry. But all the New York press corps wants to talk about is Quinn's wedding on Saturday, to her longtime partner Kim Catullo.

CHRISTINE QUINN: (Unintelligible)

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

QUINN: You're all a pain in the neck. You're going to get me into a lot of trouble. I have not yet written my vows. I have stressed over them a great deal though.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

QUINN: Kim has. He's way ahead of me on this. I am not.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: Are you nervous at all?

QUINN: Extremely.

ROSE: Quinn will be the first high-ranking city elected official to have you a same-sex wedding, since New York State legalized gay marriage last year. She's also considered one of the strongest potential candidates for the Democratic mayoral nomination in 2013.

As a member of city council for more than a decade, and the speaker since 2006, Quinn is already well-known to voters, says Douglas Muzzio, a professor of political science at Baruch College.

DOUGLAS MUZZIO: Chris is very outgoing, very engaging, very friendly, smart, tough. She's called herself a loud broad - she is.

ROSE: But when it comes to the wedding, Quinn has been relatively quiet. Quinn and Catullo have released only the most basic details. The wedding is on Saturday evening in Quinn's Manhattan district. The guest list of 300 is reported to include some of the biggest names in New York politics. But the couple is not discussing what they will wear or where they will go on their honeymoon.

When I asked Quinn how she's balancing the personal and the political, she laughs as if she is the last person in the world who should be giving advice on that topic.

QUINN: Hopefully better then I balance...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

QUINN: ...most life work challenges, which Kim will tell you I don't balance that well. You know, the thing that interesting to me about that question of balancing this, isn't so much the political, isn't so much the what impact does it have on my political career - blah, blah, blah. It's the general excitement from people I don't even know.

ROSE: Quinn's brash style has not endeared her to everyone. She's been dogged by a small but dedicated band of protesters, who object to what they see as her too-cozy relationship with real estate developers.

(SOUNDBITE OF CHANTING PROTESTERS)

ROSE: Quinn's critics also complained that she's too cozy with Mayor Michael Bloomberg. As council president, Quinn played a big role in changing city laws to allow Bloomberg to run for and win a third term.

Douglas Muzzio says that may come back to haunt her, especially with liberal voters.

MUZZIO: Term limits was just a catastrophe. You know, there was a lot of self-serving here and mutual back scratching. Not Chris's finest hour.

ROSE: Muzzio says it's not clear if Bloomberg's endorsement would help Quinn with democratic primary voters or hurt. And the mayor came very close to endorsing her at a news conference this week.

MAYOR MICHAEL BLOOMBERG: Chris Quinn is very competent and would be a very good mayor. She's one voice in the city council. I've always thought that Chris Quinn has done a very good job as the speaker.

ROSE: For her part, Quinn doesn't apologize for her friendly relationship with Mayor Bloomberg.

QUINN: My relationship with the mayor is about governing, and about finding ways to get things done for New Yorkers to make their lives better. And when we can't agree, that trying to do it in as agreeable a fashion as possible.

ROSE: Still, political observers have noted that Quinn seems to be trying to distance herself from the mayor on a range of issues. For now, polls show her as the early frontrunner among likely Democratic contenders to succeed Bloomberg. That gets another big laugh.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

QUINN: I'm on my fourth ice coffee today.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

QUINN: I'm not sure if you like on the front of anything right now. But that's nice.

ROSE: As Christine Quinn notes, there's still plenty of time for the polls go up and down, before the campaign to be the next mayor of New York City begins in earnest.

Joel Rose, NPR News.

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