Nov 15, 2021
What’s next for Maya Wiley?
The civil rights attorney and activist did not win the mayoral race, but she had a strong showing and enhanced her own profile
It was never part of the script that Maya Wiley would run for office. The child of activists, and notably civil rights leader George Wiley, Maya had been comfortable pushing for progressive change from the outside as a civil rights attorney.
But, she says, she felt called—compelled—to run for mayor in the recent election.
“It’s not only that it wasn’t on my to-do list: I thought it was the last thing I would ever do,” she says on this week’s episode of “Brooklyn Magazine: The Podcast.” “I felt pulled in.”
The rise of Donald Trump (“someone who has no business running for public office”) and her own previous experience working as counsel in Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration pushed her to the realization that it was the right moment for her to embark on her first run for public office.
“I had served inside City Hall and I had a sense of how much you could actually get done,” she says. “But also how much it mattered to frankly have someone running for office who wasn’t running for the office. Meaning, running to get the work done, not running to get the next elected office that would come after.”
Wiley, as we all know, did not win the race for Gracie Mansion. The next mayor will be Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, about whom Wiley is gracious and thoughtfully critical.
“It means a lot in a city that has so many Black people and so many people of color that for only the second time in the history of the city that we’ve elected someone who is Black, someone who is not white,” she says on the podcast. “That matters.“
Still, Wiley had a strong showing in her first run, and enhanced her own profile as a champion for the causes she holds dear, from police reform to affordable housing to mental health support in the city’s schools. Along the way she snagged endorsements from Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Senator Elizabeth Warren … and the Strokes.
We discuss her first-time run for mayor of New York and what it was like going through the political gauntlet. The highs, she says, were “the people.” The lows included bad faith actors and players were fought dirty or “unfair.”
She reflects on the legacy of her former employer, the outgoing mayor: “He actually believes in what he stands for. I think for a lot of reasons that has gotten lost,” she says. Wiley believes the outgoing mayor can be proud of the things he accomplished around universal pre-K, investment in community schools, advocating for paid family leave. His legacy will be mixed, she says, on the availability and affordability of housing, and policing.
We also discuss what she might be hopeful about around an Adams administration and the new city council, as well as the big challenges and opportunities for Democrats on the national stage. “Democrats are not focusing on the power that they have, or where they should be trying to get power,” she says. “Republicans have been very clear.”
Plus, we’ll get into what she’s thinking about doing next.
“Whatever I do next, it’s going to be to serve the mission I care about,” she says, ticking them off like someone who hasn’t quite gotten the campaign trail out of her system yet: end homelessness, get mental health care to kids and communities, true affordable housing.
So. Will she run again?
“I certainly learned to never say never.”
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