The Race for Mayor

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Recent Feature Stories:
The Nod of the Bosses... Scramble for the City Council... Basic Training for Council Recruits... How They Stack up on Term Limit... Dynasties... The Speech that Saved Term Limits...


What is Searchlight on Campaign 2001?
Searchlight on Campaign 2001 is a guide to the political races in what many are calling New York City's most significant campaign season in modern history.

What is so significant about it?
For the first time in memory, most political offices in the city will be wide open to people who have neither money nor connections.

Why will the races be so open?
There are two reasons. This year, a new law goes into effect that limits the terms of New York City elected officials, forcing the mass retirement of most incumbents in the city - including the mayor, the comptroller, the public advocate, four of the five borough presidents, and 36 of the 51 members of the City Council. At the same time, a new campaign finance law kicks in, which allows any candidate who agrees to certain restrictions to collect four dollars of matching funds for every dollar they raise.

What does this have to do with this site?
As a public service, Searchlight on Campaign 2001 has a separate page for each race, including all the races for City Council, that not only sorts out the candidates -- many of them new and unfamiliar -- but also offers an opportunity to learn about the issues, and the districts themselves.

Who is behind Searchlight on Campaign 2001?
Searchlight on Campaign 2001 is a project of Gotham Gazette, a non-profit, non-partisan, non-ideological (but non-boring) web site about New York City news, policy and politics published by Citizens Union Foundation, part of the oldest and largest good-government group in the city (founded in 1897).

What's wrong with the way the regular press covers the races?
That is for you to decide. And one of our regular features, Campaign Trail, helps you to decide. Campaign Trail provides succinct summaries and links to campaign articles in the commercial press.

Who are we?


Herman Badillo

[Question: What would your approach be as mayor to meet the needs of the city's large and growing Latino population?]

First of all, I promise you that after the primary I will be coming back to debate whoever my opponent is. Secondly, in view of the fact that Mr. Bloomberg could not make it, and the two of us are the only ones running as Republican candidates, if there is a convenient date for him before September 11th, I'd be glad to come back and debate him, just the two of us. In Spanish or in English.

Now, my broad approach is based to a large extent on the article by Angelo [Falcon], "De Tras Pa - Lante." The problem that I see is that while I understand that many Puerto Ricans have done well, that they have gone back to Puerto Rico after having become part of the middle class , or they went to New Jersey, or they went to Westchester, I feel we have not done well enough, and we have to go back and continue what we started a long time ago when we set up the Puerto Rican Community Development Project, except this time we should include more than Puerto Ricans. Some of you may remember that in the 1960s we had the Puerto Rican Community Development Project led by Antonio Canchola who created the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and ASPIRA, and we developed a program for the improvement of the Puerto Rican community. But unfortunately we got bogged down into a fight between Valentin and Ramon Perez, and the thing went down the drain.

[Question: A major issue facing Latinos across the country is under-representation, especially when it comes to decision making levels, and New York City is no exception. How would you specifically address this issue? What are your thoughts about city affirmative action programs? ]

I would look at the entrance requirements of every agency because the fact is that it is the entrance requirement that discriminates. For example, when I was the housing commissioner, I was dealing with moving poor people into public housing and other housing. The requirements for my department were three years experience of buying and selling real estate which made no sense, so I set up a trainee program so we could bring in people who really understood the problem.

We find when we look closely that in every agency the requirements tend to discriminate. When I started working in the police department, you had to be six feet one and the police commissioner himself was not six foot one. We gradually worked to lower the requirement so that more of our people could be policemen. This is what needs to be done at every agency. I have said that at John Jay College of Criminal Justice we have developed a training program for police cadets under which we would be able to train people that are residents of the city to go to a high school of criminal justice, into John Jay so they graduate and are able to pass the police exam in that way to have a diverse police force that is made up of city residents and police force that understands the problems of the city because they come from the people of the city. That is the approach I would take as mayor.

[Question: Mr. Badillo, you have come under fire for some insensitive remarks toward Mexicans and Central Americans. How do you respond to these accusations?]

The remarks that I made were not attacking any groups. What I said has been proven to be true. Three years ago I said that we had a new migration of people that were coming from Mexico, Dominican Republic, and Central America, who were coming here without any education, many of them were Indians , and they required a different bilingual program than the bilingual program that I had set up while I was a member of Congress. I was the chief sponsor of the bilingual program in the Congress of the United States. I said we had to do that because it is different from my experience. For example, when I came here from Puerto Rico at the age of eleven I couldn't speak English, but I had been in school in Puerto Rico and I could write and speak Spanish. When you get someone that has never been in any school, you cannot use the same form of the bilingual program because it is a different group. I was attacked then. What I meant was we have to develop new programs. When the census came out a few months ago, it was revealed that what I said was true, that there has been a new migration of people who come here from other countries, who don't have the benefit of an education, therefore they need special programs. That's exactly what I said.

We have to oppose bigotry in whatever form it takes, and it takes place in many forms. I'll give you examples of what I have done at the City University, because we had a white bigot, Professor Levitt, and we had another black bigot, Professor Jeffery. For twenty-five years Jeffery was the head of the Black Studies Department and nobody dared take any action because he was against Italians, he was against Jews, and he was against white people. Professor Levitt was against blacks and Latinos. We removed them as chairmen of the departments. We couldn't remove them as professors because they had the right of tenure, but action was taken against them.

The other system that I developed is that when a group wants to come to the university to speak against another group, we can't keep them from doing that because of the first amendment, the right of free speech, but I set up a counter-demonstration of people who would be speaking against them and when people realized that they were not going to be given a free ride attacking one group, they decided it was not worth doing it. So the best way for fighting bigotry is to be alert and to have a group ready to fight back against them.

[Question: What are the most critical problems you think are faced in the Latino immigrant population and how would you address them as mayor?]

The most critical problem in the immigrant population is the same problem as before. Many of the people are treated as inferior citizens, and we can no longer continue to accept the fact that we have a city that has a double standard, one for whites and one for blacks and Latinos, because if we fall into that trap we are not going to be able to progress. We have to insist that we can meet the same standards as everyone else. We cannot allow a school system that is segregated so that the white kids go through their curriculum and the blacks and Latinos go to another and they are automatically promoted through the system of social promotion which results in their dropping out when they get to be in ninth and tenth grade without getting a high school diploma, or with a high school diploma that doesn't mean anything. We have to insist that we can meet the same standards as everyone else. We have to help the immigrants because many of them come here without any documents and they are the most exploited group. Sweatshops hire all the immigrants who don't have any documents and they pay them once a month and they fire them on the twenty-eighth day. They call Immigration so that the people are driven away. That's what's going on in large parts of the city. The ones who suffer the most are exactly the immigrants and they need the help from all of us. And that is one of the areas that I will give priority.

[Question: What would you do specifically for bilingual education?]

I was the chief sponsor of the Bilingual Education Act in Congress and I was also the chief sponsor of the first bilingual community college in the State of New York. But bilingual education means two, it does not mean mono-lingual education and I do not support the idea of having our children learn only in Spanish and go on for eight years without learning English . The purpose of bilingual education is to help young people like me to pick up the English language so we don't lose the opportunity to move ahead and therefore I believe in bilingual education. But it's real bilingual, education where both English and Spanish are taught and with a limited period of time that does not go on for eight years . Two or three years. If there's real bilingual education we are performing a service. If we have only mono-lingual education we are dooming our children. That's my view and that's what I support.

[Question: What initiatives would you take in city government to address the problem of AIDS and HIV in the Latino community?]

We have to provide more funds for research and I think you may know, I am trying to set up an AIDS program at Queens College exactly to do that. We have to ensure that some of the conditions that are going on don't take place. For example, you may know that in Bronx ⤳Lebanon hospital you have a whole unit of babies that are born with AIDS, and that is a tragedy, not only for the parents, but for the children as well. That means that we need to spread the word in every part of our community the dangers that exist in the contagion of this epidemic so that it doesn't spread as it has been spreading in recent years throughout our communities.

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Find what city council district you are in -- and learn more about what's going on there, and who's running.

What is this?
Gotham Gazette's Searchlight on Campaign 2001 offers a comprehensive look at what is being called New York City's most significant campaign season in modern history. (See the left-hand column for an explanation).

Districts of the Week

District 1 -- Lower Manhattan
Whoever wins the election in district 1 will represent immigrant Chinese garment workers, as well as Wall Street traders living in Battery Park City. There are several candidates hoping to be the council's firsts -- the first Asian-American man, the first Asian-American woman, the first gay Rhodes Scholar, the first dot-com guru -- running against some politically well connected opponents. Endorsements and fundraising will play a big role in this race. But voter turnout could be the main determinant of who will next represent district 1 on the council. The key question is how many voters from each community will come out on Election Day.

District 7 -- Washington Heights, Manhattan
The northern tip of Manhattan has become one of the most popular places for new immigrants to call home. The northern tip of Manhattan is a place that today's new immigrants call home. The majority have come from the Dominican Republic, but also from countries in South America, Eastern Europe, and Asia. But it is not just new immigrants that are moving in. Students, artists, and other Manhattanites looking for less expensive rents and larger apartments have also moved north. Ten Democratic candidates are competing for the 15,000 voters expected on primary day. The winner who emerges from a crowded field of candidates will have to balance the needs of the newcomers with those who have lived there for years.

District 16 -- Highbridge, Bronx
The neighborhoods of district 16 are the city's poorest, with the highest rate of unemployment and the lowest median household income. But those who live there also point out that much is positive and stable about the area, thanks in large part to local organizations, not-for-profit agencies, and houses of worship that help hold the neighborhoods together. Each candidate for City Council believes that through his or her connections to churches and local organizations, they can help empower the community toward a better life. Helen Foster, the current council member daughter, will face Michael Benjamin, who has worked as an aide to several government officials and Anthony Curry, a Bronx neighborhood activist.

District 20 -- Northeast Flushing, Queens
This year district 20 may elect the first Asian-American ever to the City Council to an area which now has the second highest number of immigrants from Korea and Taiwan in the city. There are three Asian candidates in the Democratic race who have each drawn big endorsements. Council Speaker Peter Vallone enndorsed Terence Park, City Comptroller Alan Hevesi endorsed John Liu, and the New York Times recently endorsed Ethel Chen The campaign has also drawn national and international press coverage

District 25 -- Jackson Heights, Queens
Thirty-seventh Avenue in Jackson Heights, Queens is one of the most diverse streets in the world. Little India quickly blends into Little Colombia, with vendors selling Latin American food to Colombians, Peruvians, Ecuadorians, Mexicans, and Uruguayans. And each summer, the Queens Pride Parade fills the same street with rainbow banners. So it is no surprise that this election year the district produced a diverse field of candidates. A number of them, however, found out that getting on the ballot is not an easy task, especially when the Queens Democratic organization sends teams of lawyers to challenge petitions. But five Democratic candidates survived and will face off on September 11.

District 31 -- South East Queens
When a heavy rain hits southeast Queens, many residents in neighborhoods like Springfield Gardens, Laurelton and Rosedale head to the basement with a bucket in hand. And it has been that way for the last 50 years. In the rush to build housing in the area after World War II, developers overlooked the need for storm drains in hopes that the city would eventually build a city-wide sewer system. The plan never materialized and the area has experienced "100-year rains" three times in the last decade. The eight Democrats -- all with little experience overseeing massive infrastructure projects--will try to convince voters that they can finally solve the flooding problems.

District 35 -- Central Brooklyn
The residents in council district 35 have some of the highest incomes in Brooklyn and some of the lowest. They can play in a famous park and a beautiful botanical garden, and live in the city's most crumbling public housing. They can attend one of the four institutions of higher learning in the district, and the worst-scoring high schools in the city. Such juxtapositions are a way of life for a district that includes the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens; mid dle-class African-American communities near Prospect Park; immigrant communities from Haiti, Sierra Leon, Nigeria, and Trinidad, and in Crown Heights, a mix of Hasidic Jews and African-Americans. Seven Democratic candidates are campaigning in hopes that they can bring some kind of unity, and attention, to the area. Their backgrounds are as diverse as the neighborhoods themselves.

District 39 -- Park Slope/Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn
The candidates in district 39 include a chief of staff for an Assemblywoman, the husband of a member of U.S. Congress, a lawyer for the Legal Aid Society, an attorney and president of the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats, Senator Hillary Clinton's campaign manager, the district manager of Community Board 6, and a labor organizer. This is the race to watch this year. The group of high-profile Democrats have raised a lot of money, almost $1.4 million combined.

District 45 -- East Flatbush
In no place in the city are the effects of campaign finance reform and term limits being felt more than in East Flatbush. The seven Democratic candidates seeking to represent this largely West Indian district come from a number of Caribbean nations. Many have been working on politicians' staffs and serving with community groups, clearly hoping someday to win their own elected office. Term limits has presented them with that opportunity, and they want to make the most of it. But this race that usually draws only about 8,000 voters could be decided by just a few votes. The candidates are attempting to come up with anything that will separate them from the pack.

District 49 -- North Shore, Staten Island
Staten Island has always been somewhat of a suburban stepchild to New York City. When a 1998 survey asked New Yorkers why they go to Staten Island, the top two responses were ''visiting friends and relatives" and ''passing through.'' But in many ways, the north shore has more in common with areas of Manhattan and Brooklyn than with the rest of the Staten Island. The top priority for all the candidates -- Jon Del Giorno, an administrative manager for the Board of Elections, Mike McMahon, an attorney and counsel to current Councilmember Jerome O'Donovan, and Debi Rose, an administrator at the College of Staten Island and the first African-American candidate in Staten Island politics -- is to make sure that the island becomes more than just a turn-around-point for the over one million tourists who ride the free ferry from Manhattan each year.

Register To Vote or Be A Poll Worker

Voter Registration Forms
After printing and filling out the voter registration form, please send them by mail to:

Board of Elections
32 Broadway, 7th Floor
New York, NY

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Poll Worker Applications

After completing the forms, please send them to the address on the form.

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Links You Can Use

Government sites
NYC Campaign Finance Bd.
NYC Board of Elections
NYC Voter Assistance Comm.
NY City Council
Federal Election Comm.

Local non-partisan sites
NY League of Women Voters
Common Cause New York

National non-partisan sites
Ctr. for Responsive Politics
Common Cause
League of Women Voters

NAACP Voter Empowerment
Vote Smart


Political consultants
Amer. Assc. of Pol. Consultants

Prime New York

Gotham Gazette
The Empire Page
Campaigns and Elections
Legislative Gazette

Political columnists
Andrea Bernstein
Joe Conason
Mario Cuomo (radio)
Rudy Giuliani (radio)
Clyde Haberman
Nat Hentoff

Joseph Mercurio
Joyce Purnick
John Tierney
Michael Tomasky

Political parties
Right to Life
Working Families
Marijuana Reform
Natural Law Party
Taxpayers Party

Political clubs and groups
Blueprint Camp. Finance Reform
Central Queens Greens
The Jefferson Democratic Club of Flushing
NY Young Republican Club
Stonewall Democratic Club
Village Independent Dems.

Abbreviations for Party Affiliation

American Dream Party (AMD)
Better Schools Party (BES)
Communist (Com)
Conservative (Con)
Constitution (CST)
Democratic (Dem)
Friends United Party (FUN)
Fusion Party (FUS)
Green (Gre)
Harmony Party (HAR)
Independence (Ind)
Liberal (Lib)
Libertarian (LBT)
Marijuana Reform Party (POT)
Natural Law Party (NLP)
Party of Ethics and Traditions (PET)
Reform Party (Ref)
Republican (Rep)
Right to Life (RTL)
School Choice Party (Sch)
Socialist Workers Party (SWP)
Working Families (Wor)

2001 Election Calendar

June 1 -- Deadline for candidates to join the Campaign Finance program, qualifying for the four-to-one match of contributions.
June 5 - First day for candidates from the eight major parties (Democratic, Republican, Indpendence, Conservative, Liberal, Green, Working Families, and Right to Life) to circulate petitions. Candidates running for City Council must collect the signatures of at least 900 people living in the district for which they are running in order to appear on the Primary ballot. Candidates not running under these eight major parties do not appear on the Primary ballot and have a separate set of deadlines.
July 12 - Deadline for major party candidates to file petitions.
July 10 - First day for unaffiliated candidates to circulate petitions, in order to appear on the ballot in the General Election. They must collect the number of signatures equal to five percent of the total enrolled in that party.
August 7 - Board of Elections announces candidates appearing on the Primary ballot.
August 17 - Last day for non-absentee voters to register to vote in the Primary Election.
August 21 - Deadline for non-major party candidates to file petitions to be included on the General Election ballot.
September 4 - Last day to postmark application for absentee voting in the Primary
September 10 - Last day to personally deliver application for absentee voting in the Primary Last day to postmark absentee ballot for Primary
September 11 - Primary election; Polls open at 6:00a.m. and close at 9:00p.m.; Absentee ballots must be hand-delivered by 9:00 p.m.
September 25 - Runoff Primary election for Mayor, Comptroller and Public Advocate, if needed
October 12 - Last day to for non-absentee voters to register to vote in the General Election
October 30 - Last day to postmark application for absentee voting in the General Election
November 5 - Last day to hand-deliver an application for absentee voting, or to postmark an absentee ballot for the General Election.
November 6 - General Election; polls open at 6:00a.m. and close at 9:00p.m. in NYC; Absentee ballots must be hand-delivered by 9:00 p.m.

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