Like most New Yorkers, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson hasn't danced in months.

He was supposed to be the good times candidate, but now as the city grapples with its most significant crisis in decades, Johnson's road to City Hall appears less clear. In a moment where New Yorkers are looking for leadership, the speaker — arguably the second most powerful public official in the city — has been less visible.

What You Need To Know

  • Johnson was seen as a rising star in progressive politics

  • A recent budget fight has raised questions about the left's support for Johnson

  • Johnson had hoped to bring an element of youthful energy to the trail, but that is less clear now that the city is in deep crisis

"It's not going to be easy in the next couple of months, unless he starts to figure out what lane he wants to be in," said Camille Rivera, a political strategist at New Deal Strategies.

The campaign for mayor is slowly but surely getting underway and some of the other would-be contenders have made a point of being visible.

City Comptroller Scott Stringer published a schools reopening plan focused on outdoor instruction. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams released a list of recommendations for the recovery and has been vocal about the need to combat gun violence.

In the last few months, Johnson has been in the spotlight too, but it's been while in the middle of a contentious budget fight between the left, his colleagues in the council and the other side of City Hall over funding for the police department.

"In all fairness, I think it's very hard to be able to present yourself in this moment," Rivera said. "He's got to figure out a strategy to be out there and be talking to people."

Elected speaker of the Council by his colleagues in 2018, Johnson has been expected to mount a campaign to succeed Bill de Blasio by showcasing a youthful energy that was a contrast to the current mayor. And although those close to Johnson say he still wants to run, they acknowledge the weeks leading up to the budget and preceded by the COVID-19 crisis were challenging.

"Corey admitted that it was tough for him," said Councilman Danny Dromm, a close ally of Johnson who also chairs the Council's Finance Committee. "But Corey is really resilient and Corey is really tough and I do believe that Corey is in it to win it, I think he is doing really well at this point."

The June budget battle led to internal squabbles among colleagues and allies on the left and now his support among activists and progressive organizations appears in question.

New York Working Families Party Director Sochie Nnaemeka declined an interview, but in a statement, she pointed to city’s crisis and its disproportionate impact on Black, brown and working class communities who have been hit the hardest.

“To deliver a recovery for all, we need a mayor with a bold, transformative, just plan--- and the political will to make it happen,” Nnaemeka said. “So when our members lead our endorsement process later this year, the New York WFP will be looking for that leader.”

Johnson declined to speak with NY1 for this story. Three years into his speakership and with the fight to become the next leader of the City of New York upon him, Johnson's path to winning that campaign is unclear.


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