The jumble of names wouldn’t mean anything to the average New Yorker – Cornegy has Mercury; Johnson has Metropolitan – but to political insiders, they mean the New York City Council speaker's race is going on strong behind the scenes.
Seven of the eight New York City Council members who have announced their candidacy to be the next speaker of that body have hired political lobbying and consulting firms to help run – at least in part – their campaigns for the leadership post.
The candidates and the firms vary, but all are offering the same thing: a strategy and advice on how to become to second-most powerful public official in New York City government.
The speaker is voted on by council members from among their ranks, but the power players extend far beyond the 51 city lawmakers to county party organizations, labor unions and the mayor. Here’s who each of the speaker candidates has hired during the current cycle, with payments as early as 2014 and up to date as of the latest New York City Campaign Finance Board filing period ending on Oct. 23.
Robert Cornegy, Brooklyn
Mercury Public Affairs, $52,500
By the Numbers, $9,000
Cornegy has spent the most on any one lobbying firm of any candidate in the race, paying Mercury $52,500 dating back to May of this year. Cornegy also paid affordable housing consulting firm By the Numbers Consulting Service $9,000 on June 22. A call to the Cornegy campaign was not immediately returned.
Corey Johnson, Manhattan
Metropolitan Public Strategies, $20,750
Stu Loeser, $500
Johnson, widely considered to be one of the leading candidates for speaker, has been working with Metropolitan since April. His reelection contest has been uncompetitive, and Johnson has donated his own campaign funds to a wide array of other council members. Johnson also paid former Bloomberg administration communications maven Stu Loeser’s firm $500 in January 2017.
Mark Levine, Manhattan
The Parkside Group, $62,012.89
Kirtzman Strategies, $34,000
RKM Strategic Consulting, $14,000
Pitta LLP, $6,000
Levine, also considered to be a leading candidate in the race, has spent more than anyone else on lobbying and consulting firms, though not all have been focusing specifically on the speaker’s race. He paid the Parkside Group more than $60,000 in August and September for campaign literature and mailings during his primary election race. Levine has worked with Kirtzman Strategies since June as the firm consulted him on both his reelection and the speaker’s race. He has paid RKM Strategic Consulting since May to focus largely on scheduling and organization. Levine has also hired Pitta LLP for campaign finance compliance unrelated to the speaker’s race.
Donovan Richards, Queens
The Advance Group, $24,297
Richards has been working with The Advance Group since April. His reelection race has been uncompetitive, so the firm has been focusing on his speaker candidacy.
Ydanis Rodriguez, Manhattan
The Advance Group, $30,000
The Parkside Group, $10,430
Rodriguez also has hired The Advance Group, with payments in his campaign filings going back to March 2016. Rodriguez said Advance mostly focused on his primary and general election campaigns, but he hopes to have the firm focus more on his campaign for speaker after Tuesday’s election. Rodriguez has also paid The Parkside Group for social media ads.
Ritchie Torres, Bronx
Red Horse Strategies, $7,877
Torres has spent the lowest amount on consultants out of any of the candidates, paying Red Horse Strategies just under $8,000 since March. That firm helped Torres win his first term in the City Council in 2013.
Jumaane Williams, Brooklyn
Millennial Strategies, $37,495
Williams has a long relationship with Millennial Strategies, with occasional payments recorded from May 2014 until now, but Williams said the firm is only helping with his reelection, not the speaker’s race. “I am very confident that I already have an experienced team around me,” he said. Williams has also paid BerlinRosen nearly $7,000 for a campaign mailing in August, although the firm said its work was unrelated to the speaker's race.
Jimmy Van Bramer, Queens
Pythia Public Affairs, $0
Van Bramer said he just finalized the contract with Pythia Public Affairs to consult on his campaign for speaker. Van Bramer has also paid BerlinRosen nearly $12,000 for mailings over the past three years, although the firm said its work was unrelated to the speaker's race.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to clarify that BerlinRosen's work on behalf of Van Bramer and Williams was unrelated to the speaker's race.
Correction: An earlier version of this story misrepresented Levine’s relationship with Pitta Bishop Del Giorno LLC.