Last night New York City comptroller candidate Scott Stringer hosted a fundraiser at the Maritime Hotel in Chelsea. The world “comptroller” alone sounds utterly and terminally unhip–and Stringer, himself, middle-aged white guy politician and wearer of practical suits, doesn’t exactly scream “cool” either. Yet, the event could have easily been mistaken for an exclusive fashion party. The host committee read like a veritable who’s who of the fashion industry and downtown scene: Lena Dunham, The Man Repeller’s Leandra Medine, Pamela Love, Emily Weiss, Vogue‘s Chloe Malle and Thessaly La Force, and Claire Distenfeld were all listed. Harper’s Bazaar‘s Laura Brown, Prabal Gurung and countless other fashion party mainstays came out too.
Not exactly the crew you’d picture rallying to get Stringer elected and keep his opponent Eliot Spitzer out. Dunham, who gave a speech endorsing Stringer, even acknowledged, “When [Stringer] told me he was running for comptroller the first thing I did was Google the word ‘comptroller’.” She also estimated that about “half” the crowd didn’t know what a comptroller was either. She was probably right.
So why were they there? One name: Audrey Gelman. You might know her better as the permanently Coachella bound Audrey from Girls, or as Terry Richardson’s girlfriend, but she’s also Stringer’s whip smart spokesperson. She moves seamlessly between the fashion world and the world of city politics–and last night she brought them together (wearing Dior). She wouldn’t go on the record last night–better to keep the story on her candidate–but her friends did.
“Audrey is a friend of mine,” Leandra Medine explained. “She draws this fashion crowd, but they’re here with merit. She’s educating people. A lot of people don’t even know that this position exists.”
Case in point, Prabal Gurung admitted he came because “a few of his friends were hosting,” but that he was inspired to research the candidate. “He stands for women’s rights, for affordable housing, he’s invested in the essence of what makes New York New York,” he said. “I’ve been involved with the Obama campaign, but to see all of us here, it’s good for our industry.” Laura Brown echoed his sentiments: “My reason for being here is very basic: I want the good guy to win,” she said. “I just think this a good man, he cares about New York, I live here, he’s been kind to me for 12 years, and I can’t vote, so at least I can be here and be of minor use.”
And even if some scenesters turned out because it seemed like another cool party, they probably left with a good understanding of what a comptroller does after all, and likely feel Stringer’s the man for the job.
Dunham did a fantastic job of explaining how the kind of work a comptroller affects a young person in New York and that the issues Stringer supports–women’s rights, tech, affordable housing–are the important ones. On women’s rights: “We need a candidate with a record of respecting women and the issues that matter to them. Just ‘cause it’s New York city doesn’t mean it’s gonna be okay for us forever. There’s been like weird Red States creeping in here, and you know that.” On making sure young people, especially creatives like Dunham, can afford to live in New York: “We can’t have our generation’s Patti Smith moving to Tampa. That’s gonna seriously fuck our shit up… A one-bedroom apartment shouldn’t cost $6,000, but Europeans don’t know that.”
As for Stringer, he seems to have embraced his unexpected by-proxy hipness: “This job of comptroller, [it's] a job I like to think I’ve made very cool around the country,” he said. “No one ever thought municipal finance could be sexy but tonight we showed that this office matters.” And he acknowledged his audience. “We also have to make way for this amazing next generation. A city that speaks 170 languages from 200 countries also has to recognize that we’ve got to watch out for that next generation, the people who want to get involved in high tech and fashion–which is way we have to save the garment center and figure out ways to educate our children in the next technology. That’s what we have to focus on.”
Click through to read Dunham’s speech in full.