New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio, who is running for a second term, is married to Chirlane McCray. They have been married since 1994 and have two children.
At 62 years old, McCray is six years older than de Blasio. McCray is a graduate of Wellesley College and was born in Springfield, Massachusetts. She has worked in politics as a speechwriter and had a position in New York with the Clinton administration.
Before de Blasio was elected mayor, the family lived in Park Slope, Brooklyn. They are the parents of 20-year-old daughter Chiara and 19-year-old son Dante. You can follow McCray on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.
Here’s what you need to know about McCray.
1. McCray Wrote ‘I Am A Lesbian’ In a 1979 Essence Magazine Essay
In 1979, McCray wrote a ground-breaking essay in Essence Magazine titled “I Am A Lesbian.” She wrote the essay in the hope of inspiring others who felt alone.
“I wanted my voice to reassure those who feel as isolated and alone as I once did, those who desperately seek answers to all the whys when none exist, those who are embroiled in a struggle to be themselves in a society that frowns on differences,” McCray told the Village Voice in June 2014.
Before de Blasio launched his first mayoral campaign, McCray’s sexuality became the subject of headlines in New York. The New York Observer reported on McCray’s “Lesbian Past” in December 2012. The paper noted that McCray was a member of the Combahee River Collective while in college. It is a group of black feminists, and her experience in the group inspired her to become a writer and poet. In 1983, she wrote the poem “I Used to Think,” in which she refers to a female lover.
The Observer noted that de Blasio and McCray did not mention her past early on in the campaign, but McCray did issue a statement to Politico in 2012.
“In the 1970s, I identified as a lesbian, and wrote about it,” McCray said through a de Blasio campaign spokesperson. “In 1991, I met the love of my life, married him, and together we’ve raised two amazing kids. I’m reminded every day how lucky I am to have met my soulmate.”
2. De Blasio & McCray Met While Working for Mayor David Dinkins
De Blasio and McCray met in 1991, when they were both working for David Dinkins, the first and so far only black mayor of New York. McCray’s first job in politics was as speechwriter for Dinkins. As the New York Times notes, de Blasio also got his start in politics with Dinkins, working on his 1989 campaign.
Next, McCray worked in the New York Foreign Press Center as a public affairs specialist during the Clinton Administration. She was also a speech writer for state comptroller Carl McCall and city comptroller Bill Thompson, notes the New York Daily News.
In a 2013 interview with the Daily News, McCray said politics is “part of our lives.” She insisted that her high visibility during de Blasio’s first campaign wasn’t just a ploy to help her husband politically.
“I am not the kind of woman that you are going to be to be telling me what to do,” she said in 2013.
Before de Blasio ran for mayor, McCray worked in the private sector. She worked for Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn and advertising firm Della Femina.
3. De Blasio Defended Giving McCray a Large Role in His Administration After She Got Her Own Chief of Staff
After de Blasio was elected, one of his first controversies was the large role he planned to have McCray play in his administration. Public relations expert Rachel Noerdlinger, who previously worked for Rev. Al Sharpton, was hired to be McCray’s chief of staff. When she quit in November 2014, de Blasio complained that a “repulsive” smear campaign led to her leaving.
“She’s only just begun, and as I said the other day, she’s working for free on behalf of the people of the city — so by definition she needs a staff,” de Blasio said after Noerdlinger quit, defending his wife. “I am absolutely committed to that, because that’s what’s going to allow us to do more for the people of the city.”
In December 2014, McCray hired Roxanne John as her chief of staff. She is also the executive director of the Gracie Mansion, the mayoral residence, and earns a $200,000 salary.
4. McCray Traced Her Family Roots Back to Ghana & Her Grandmother Lived in Barbados Before Immigrating to the U.S.
In 2012, McCray and de Blasio wrote an essay for Amsterdam News about McCray’s family. Her grandmother, Irene Quashie, was born in St. Lucia. She grew up in Barbados before moving to the U.S. They believe “Quashie” is “unmistakably Ghanaian,” since it is a common last name among the Ewe people.
De Blasio and McCray gave their children “Quashie” as middle names. They took their children to Ghana in February 2012 to meet with officials there and reconnect with McCray’s family origins.
“We wanted to give our children the confidence that comes from experiencing one’s heritage, and we wanted to deepen our understanding of a beautiful, inviting and compelling country,” the couple wrote.
In April 2016, McCray met with students from Ghana who participated in a United Nations program.
5. De Blasio & McCray Reported Their Income as $221,000 on Tax Returns & McCray Listed No Income
In April 2017, Newsday reported that de Blasio’s tax returns listed their adjusted income at about $221,000. Most of that comes from de Blasio’s $225,000 salary as Mayor of New York City.
McCray listed no salary. She is listed as the leader of the Mayor’s Fund to Advance New York City, a fundraiser for various causes in the city. The fund launched an initiative to raise money for victims of Hurricanes Irma and Harvey.
Newsday notes that the tax returns also list $106,000 in rental income for their two Park Slope homes and a loss of $6,237.
De Blasio teased President Donald Trump, who has yet to release all of tax returns. “See, President Trump? It’s not that hard,” de Blasio wrote. “No one forces any of us to run for public office, but those in public office must be transparent about our finances.”