Why De León Should Resign First

Editorial: Resign already, Councilmembers Kevin de León and Gil Cedillo

The fate of U.S. House Speaker-designate Kevin de León will be decided on June 16, when the newly seated New York City Council chooses a new mayor. The same could happen to New York’s de facto second black mayor, Eric Schmitt, who is now the top city official overseeing the police department.

I’m a bit surprised to see this column that suggests that in the face of an overwhelming desire to keep both mayor and police chief from joining the Democratic ticket, de León should be told to resign first. It’s easy to see why de León would want to become the head of the Democratic Party and leave. He’s a powerful speaker, a charismatic figure who helped bring the party to its current strength in the election of 2016.

The Democratic Party has a long tradition of supporting black candidates. But it’s become more difficult to bring in minority candidates because of laws passed during the Johnson administration that made it more difficult for a minority to win a seat on the New York City Council than to enter the U.S. Senate. Some have suggested that Schmitt, then police chief of Queens, should run for the Democratic nomination. This is not the first time that de León would be asked to resign. In February of 2018, he resigned as speaker so that his successor could run for re-election. The choice of Schmitt over de León would make a statement about who the Democratic Party is: that it is the party of diversity, or black candidates who are not welcomed. It is a safe bet which of the two it would select, but if I were Schmitt, it would be no contest.

De León is not a saint in the eyes of the Democrats, but he is not the worst. Even Schmitt would probably be able to work with him. But there is nothing to suggest that de León would be less of an impediment to a black candidate’s victory than Schmitt would be.

De León’s political career has had plenty to teach us about winning a national election. But what we shouldn’t do is pretend that anything he has done to advance racial justice is anything but heroic. If de León,

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