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Long IslandColumnistsDan Janison

As front-runner, NYC mayoral hopeful Christine Quinn has a target on her back

Christine Quinn speaks onstage at the Michael Kors-Golden

Christine Quinn speaks onstage at the Michael Kors-Golden Heart Gala at Cunard Building in Manhattan last year. Quinnipiac University released poll results on Feb. 26, 2013, found that 37 percent of Democratic voters surveyed said they would support Quinn for mayor. (Oct. 15, 2012) Credit: Getty Images

For mayoral hopeful Christine Quinn, leading in the polls nine months before the election promises burdens along with blessings.

The most recent survey from Quinnipiac University put the first female City Council speaker at 37 percent in the five-way Democratic field.

Appearing to hold the top rank in the city's dominant party should help Quinn, the only woman in the race, collect more endorsements and money.

But in any campaign, being perceived as king or queen of the hill paints a target on a front-runner's back. Quinn's primary rivals are just starting to hit her Council record hard in their public remarks.

For example, a bill to mandate paid sick leave for private-sector employees who don't now have it has stalled in the council. Quinn has said she still wants to see economic data showing the right time to enact it. Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and Comptroller John Liu, rival Democratic candidates, call that a dodge.

Another candidate, William C. Thompson Jr., the former city comptroller, signals other gibes to come. Thompson already has cited a 2008 tempest over how the Council doled out member items, suggested some Quinn endorsements were tied to her legislative actions and said she "broke her word to voters" by carrying out the change in the term limit law that effectively kept her and Mayor Michael Bloomberg in their offices for an additional four years.

Quinn campaign consultant Josh Isay says: "We know some of her opponents are going to point fingers and make political jabs. But she is not about talking. She is about getting the job done. The campaign is focusing on her record of accomplishments -- from balancing seven budgets and protecting teachers' jobs to expanding pre-K, to protecting a woman's right to choose, to thousands of jobs in all five boroughs. We realize that politics is politics."

If Quinn prevails in the fall, she'd break a losing streak for speakers: The last two -- Gifford Miller and Peter Vallone Sr. -- fared poorly in mayoral primaries.

And Quinn has a bigger jinx to break, according to Albany-based political consultant Bruce Gyory, who says: "No Democrat who was the front-runner for an open seat for New York City mayor at the dawn of the campaign has been elected mayor since 1953."

Those one-time "front-runners" included Mark Green in 2001, Mario Biaggi in 1973, and Paul Screvane in 1965. Even when the late Ed Koch won for the first time in 1977, neither he nor the second-place finisher, Mario Cuomo, appeared likely to make the runoff in a New York Times-CBS poll two weeks before Primary Day. But both did.

Well into that year, in fact, some believed candidate Bella Abzug would become the city's first female mayor.

Bottom line: In a mayoral contest, the landscape of March rarely resembles that of November.


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