Lesbian frontrunner in New York mayor race

NEW YORK (AFP) - Democrat Christine Quinn threw her hat into the ring on Sunday to become New York's next mayor, in a race that could see her become the first woman and the first openly gay person to hold the position.

Ms Quinn, who currently is speaker of the city council, is vying to succeed Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who has held the post for 12 years. A general election vote to succeed him is to be held in November.

At a press conference announcing her candidacy, Ms Quinn, 46, said that her goal as mayor would be "keeping New York City a place for the middle class to live and grow, and a place that is going to help all those hard working people to get into the middle class." Ms Quinn, who has served on the city council since 1999, and has been its speaker since 2005, is married to Kim Catullo, an attorney.

She also issued a virtual announcement at http: www.quinnfornewyork.com.

About a dozen other Democratic and Republican contenders already have declared their intention to run for the city's highest office, but Ms Quinn becomes an immediate frontrunner in the race, given her name recognition and the decidedly Democratic demographics of New York.

She appears to have the support of Mr Bloomberg, 71, a billionaire media mogul and larger-than-life figure who has left a decided stamp on the life of the city.

A survey by the Quinnipiac polling institute last month gave Ms Quinn 37 per cent support among primary voters, a considerably better showing than other Democrats in the race.

Republican contenders whom she could face include Joseph Lhota, former head of the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), the agency that runs the city's subways and buses, and New York's popular former police chief Raymond Kelly, who has not yet announced his candidacy.