Political Power Couple

Written by City & State on . Posted in Features, Other Features.

In 2011, City & State—then City Hall—published its list of “Political Power Couples,” which featured a New York City public advocate on the rise and the wife he met while working in the Dinkins administration. The following is an excerpt. 

How did you meet? 

Chirlane McCray: During the Dinkins administration, I was employed by the city Human Rights Commission, but I was sent to City Hall to work in the press office on rotation. It was a common practice where they would send people from the agencies to work in City Hall for a while. I was there for a few weeks, and one of my assignments was to write a press release outlining who the mayor was endorsing for the City Council races, and I was told that Bill de Blasio was the guy who knew all the political stuff. … One of the press people literally took me by the hand and over to his desk, which was not far from our office, and said, “There he is,” and he was on the phone, he was sitting at a little cubicle with lots of Post-Its all around his desk and totally involved in a very deep conversation. He turned around and saw me and put his finger in the air, signaling that it would be just a moment, but moments passed and he was still on the phone.

De Blasio: I’m in the middle of my workday and I look up and there’s this totally captivating woman walking towards me. What added to my sense of captivation was that in the midst of this traditional, kind of bureaucratic…

McCray: Button-down.

Bill de Blasio: Huh?

Oh yes. Right, button-down. Very button-down environment, drifting towards me elegantly is this striking person, because she was wearing a very colorful dress and she had a head wrap and she had a nose ring—a very prominent nose ring. So the rebel in me immediately loved it. [Laughs.] Even though I was on the phone and I was doing something, the way I was signaling was, “Don’t go away.” I didn’t even know who she was, but I knew I didn’t want her to go away, and then I talk to her for a few minutes. But it was really the kind of, the lightning bolt struck me, there was no question and I was captivated. It was definitely some of that love-at-first-sight dynamic to it, like I was absolutely taken by her from the first conversation.

McCray: All of a sudden, he was in the press room all the time. I had never seen this guy, and then literally every day from then on he was in the press room.

Have you ever disagreed on a political issue? 

de Blasio: It was when I was first elected to the Council in ’01… there were lots and lots of meeting going on with the Brooklyn delegation. At that point, Clarence Norman was the county leader and he was chairing the meetings and he was pushing very hard for the Brooklyn Council members, including the incoming Council members, to support Angel Rodriguez, who was a Brooklyn Council member who was running for the Speaker of the City Council, and I was very, very dubious. And it was a classic situation where the message from the county leader was, “The train is about to leave the station and things are moving, and if you’re not with the majority you’ll be left behind,” and I started to feel a conflict between what I felt—which was that I didn’t think Angel was the right candidate—and then sort of practical politics. I went home and I talked to Chirlane about it, and she literally said—sorry, this is a sound byte that’s so excellent because it was true—she literally said, “If you vote for Angel Rodriguez for Speaker I’ll divorce you.” [Laughs.]

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