In words nearly identical to Ms. Quinn, previous speakers Gifford Miller and Peter Vallone Sr. both emphasized their council records, arguing their stewardship of the municipal legislature made them the most qualified to be mayor. Both men lost handily, Mr. Vallone in the 2001 Democratic primary and Mr. Miller in 2005. Mr. Vallone also lost a 1998 bid for governor.
On Monday, Ms. Quinn essentially doubled-down on her record as speaker, delivering a speech underscoring, as she has for weeks, that her accomplishments surpass those of her rivals. She is a do-er, she argued, and her competitors are flame throwers or panderers.
"If you want a candidate who lobs criticisms on the steps of City Hall or on the floor of Congress, I'm not your gal," said Ms. Quinn, a Democrat who herself has held many news conference from the steps of City Hall.
"A record of results and a vision for the future…that's what we need from the next mayor," she said. "Not just empty promises, silly press stunts, or nonstop criticism."
History shows that it can be a risky move to tie a run to a record of legislative achievement. The last legislative leader to become mayor was Vincent Impellitteri, the president of the City Council when William O'Dwyer stepped down in 1950 amid a corruption scandal to become ambassador to Mexico. Named acting mayor, Impelliteri ran in a special election and won.
The feat has also been difficult on the state and federal levels. In modern history, the head of the New York Assembly or Senate has never moved directly from that spot to the governor's mansion, according to Gov. Andrew Cuomo's office. There has never been a speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives or majority leader in the Senate who has moved directly to the Oval Office, according to the official Senate and House historians.
Steven Cohen, a professor of public affairs at Columbia University, said the public has different expectations of legislative leaders than of mayors and governors, and the positions require different skill sets. "You're involved in the process, you're a player, but you're still not in charge," he said of legislative leaders. "They poll well early because their name recognition is high, but then as they get out in the campaign, they have their record to deal with, they have the compromises they forged and other people running have more freedom of movement."
When told her platform echoes the themes of her predecessors, Ms. Quinn said her record was better than Messrs. Miller and Vallone's. "With all due respect to my predecessors, I don't think you can touch the record of the City Council since I've been speaker," she said. "I'll stack my record against anyone who's running and, quite frankly, anybody who has run."
In response, Mr. Miller said, "Chris Quinn has a record of accomplishment of which she should be justifiably proud." Mr. Vallone didn't respond to multiple requests for comment.
Ms. Quinn is doing better than her predecessors in early polling. She is leading the pack; Messrs. Miller and Vallone never did so.
In her speech Monday, Ms. Quinn charged that her opponents have spent many years in public office but there's a "great big hole" where results should be. While she didn't name her rivals, she offered pointed criticism of each of them.
The speaker accused one Democrat of dusting off old position papers for a "comeback attempt"—presumably referring to former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner. On a new Upper East Side waste-transfer center, she suggested one opponent is siding with "lobbyist donors" and two others "flip flopped their way to the right position."
Ms. Quinn has had a running argument with Bill Thompson, a former city comptroller, about his opposition to the waste-transfer center. Meanwhile, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and city Comptroller John Liu both voted for the waste-transfer center when they were council members, before hedging on the campaign trail about their support. They have since said they support it.
Mr. Thompson said running for mayor isn't about "name calling and finger pointing and patting yourself on the back." Ms. Quinn is distracting voters from the real issues that face the city, he said.
Bill Hyers, campaign manager to Mr. de Blasio, said in an email that Ms. Quinn's record includes giving Mayor Michael Bloomberg a third term and blocking key legislation for years to "placate big business."
"This election is not a contrast in getting things done—it's about who you are fighting for," Mr. Hyers said.
A spokeswoman said Mr. Weiner has spent his entire career fighting for the middle class.
Mr. Liu's campaign said it agrees with Ms. Quinn that "talk is cheap" and that "voters will decide based on actions."