The Race for Comptroller
GOTHAM GAZETTE: SEARCHLIGHT ON CAMPAIGN 2001: COMPTROLLER

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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?
Masthead

 

General Election Results

x-William C. Thompson, Dem 753,550 - 84 percent
Herbert E. Berman, Lib 59,540 - 7 percent
John J. Demic, Con 55,593 - 6 percent
Others 30,853 - 3 percent

Primary Election Results

William C. Thompson 308,998
Herbert E. Berman 261,608
(Official Vote Count from the Board of Elections)

The Candidates:


For who has donated to these candidates see the Campaign Finance Board:

Contributors to Herb Berman
John D'Emic has not filed.
Contributors to Bill Thompson


Comptroller Stump Speeches


Previous Comptroller Race Campaign Features:

Spare Field for Dry Job With Lots of Power


Comptroller Campaign Trail

9/6/01
For comptroller, Newsday endorses Herbert Berman, largely because of cost overruns in the school construction program during his opponent William Thompson's tenure as school board president. And for public advocate, a job that the paper believes should not exist, it chooses Stephen DiBrienza. (Newsday)

The New York Times endorses William Thompson for comptroller in his race against Herbert Berman. "Neither man, unfortunately, is an ideal choice for the job of the city's financial watchdog. Mr. Thompson and Mr. Berman were both in positions that should have allowed them to discover that the city's public school construction program was running wildly over budget, but neither blew the whistle. Both, in fact, seemed to feel that they should not have been expected to find out about the overruns unless someone else informed them.. . .As head of the Finance Committee, [Berman] has had plenty of experience with the creation of a city budget. But the committee's oversight work, despite some good intentions, has been thin. Mr. Berman may also be too mired in the old-style political horse-trading that is the hallmark of the council's part in budget-making.

"Mr. Thompson, a younger and more thoughtful candidate, has some missteps on his record. As a 'rainmaker' for the investment firm of George K. Baum & Company, he waited too long to take the test required by the National Association of Securities Dealers. He also failed to pay enough state tax on two occasions. . . . Both of these matters, although relatively minor, are worrisome in a candidate for the comptroller's post.

"Nevertheless, of the two candidates we prefer Mr. Thompson, whose tenure as president of the Board of Education brought an unusual period of quiet progress. Mr. Thompson also seems the more energetic candidate, who would regard the comptroller's job as a challenge to be met. Mr. Berman, on the other hand, is more likely to see it as the capstone of a long political career.

"The only African-American running for a citywide office, Mr. Thompson wants to be a more 'activist' comptroller, speaking out on the city's financial state. During this campaign he has expressed concern about the city's debt level 1"2 an attitude we prefer to Mr. Berman's more optimistic approach. Mr. Thompson has also promised to make more of the audits public, building on his efforts at the Board of Education, where he worked to make financial records more transparent.

"The most important first step for the next comptroller will be his choice of deputies. . . . The new comptroller must also be especially scrupulous about picking a top-notch first deputy, a job that should go to someone who is above reproach, who has a great range of experience and is respected in government and in the financial marketplace. We endorse Mr. Thompson with the expectation that he will make those personnel choices his first priority to send a signal that his stewardship is based on the public trust, not political favors." (New York Times)

The Daily News endorses Berman. "Fiscal experience and prudent sensibilities will matter much during the next term. Herb Berman has those qualifications, and more, making him the Daily News' choice for the job. As chairman of the City Council Finance Committee since 1990, Berman has navigated the ins and outs of the budget process and capital-spending programs. Working with Mayor Giuliani and Speaker Peter Vallone, he helped negotiate successful and responsible budgets. Berman would barely have to switch hats to assume the controller's key roles 1"2 scrutinizing the city's books, selling bonds, safeguarding the pension system and advising the mayor, council and public on the city's monetary health. He also has worn the fiscal watchdog cap comfortably.

"Berman's opponent, ex-Board of Education President Bill Thompson, is an attractive candidate whose sensible stewardship kept the peace on a fractious board. Questions have been raised about two tax liens filed against him for late payments, but they do not disqualify him from elective office. Indeed, Thompson's political future in this city is bright. But, here and now, for the controller's job, Berman is the better candidate." (Daily News)

The Observer also endorsed Councilmember Herbert Berman in the Democratic primary for comptroller. Its editorial cites Berman's understanding of how the budget and government work, his 26 years of government experience, and his having been a key player in the city's budget process as chair of the council's budget committee. On the other hand, the Observer says, his opponent, William Thompson "was missing in action while the [school] capital spending plan ran up cost overruns of nearly $3 billion." (New York Observer)

The two Democratic candidates for comptroller, Herbert Berman and William Thompson, clashed yesterday in a heated television debate. Each candidate in the increasingly bitter race argued the other is unfit for the post. Berman accused Thompson of failing to pay his taxes on time and not getting legally required licenses on time when he worked on Wall Street. Thompson countered by accusing Berman of running "a gutter-type, mudslinging nasty campaign." Both men are running negative television ads. (NY Times)

Some of the bitterness of the comptroller's race could be due to the fact that it's so close. According to a Quinnipiac College survey, William Thompson and Herbert Berman are virtually tied with Thompson at 24 percent and Berman at 22 percent. But 52 percent of voters have yet to make up their minds. (New York Post)

9/4/01
City Comptroller candidate Herb Berman is set to unleash a TV ad today attacking his rival, William Thompson, as a tax scofflaw and law-breaking banker. "William Thompson managing our tax dollars? New York City filed warrants against Thompson for five years of unpaid taxes," a narrator says as copies of warrants flash across the screen. "He broke the law as an investment banker and had his securities license suspended." Thompson's campaign shot back yesterday, saying Berman has "sunk to the politics of lies and slander." (Daily News)

8/29/01
In the race for comptroller, William Thompson had raised barely $1 million to Herb Berman's $1.5 million, as of Aug. 10. And by far, Berman is attracting the big money. Berman's donors include just about all of the city's biggest real estate developers, its biggest bus companies and many landlords.(Daily News)

8/28/01
A mailing sent out by comptroller candidate Herbert Berman directly attacks the integrity of rival William Thompson.It focuses on published reports about tax liens that had been filed against Thompson in 1984 and 1997 and allegations he violated securities regulations while he was a private investment banker in the early 1990s. But Thompson's campaign spokeswoman replied that Berman is resorting to "an underhanded and despicable distortion of the facts." (Daily News)

8/25/01
Both candidates for comptroller, Herb Berman and Bill Thompson, are longtime political insiders with a head for figures. Each uses the word "utilize" a lot. And each agrees with the other on almost every issue. To the extent that the candidates disagree on anything, it is on the outlook for the city's economy and budget. Mr. Thompson takes the gloomier view But the lack of drama does not mean that the comptroller's race is unimportant, especially now that the city's economy is beginning to skid and tax revenues look likely to shrink. The comptroller will have to be the bearer of any bad economic news to the new mayor, the new City Council and the public - as well as paying the bills, borrowing the money and checking out the contracts signed by the city. (NY Times)

7/18/01
Former Board of Education President and city comptroller candidate William Thompson won the endorsement of the United Federation of Teachers union yesterday. (Daily News)

Mets co-owner Fred Wilpon and his Sterling Equities real-estate company donated nearly $100,000 in this year's city elections, including $50,700 to the four Democratic mayoral hopefuls. They also donated $35,300 to city comptroller candidate Herb Berman, a Brooklyn city councilman who was a key in building a $33 million stadium in Coney Island for a minor-league Mets team. The Mets are seeking a new $500 million major-league stadium. (NY Post)

8/24/01
The two candidates for comptroller got endorsements from Latino public officials yesterday, Herb Berman from Councilmembers Margarita Lopez, Victor Robles, and Guillermo Linares, and Assembly member Jose Rivera (one of the Vieques Four); William Thompson from Congressmembers Nydia Velazquez and Jose Serrano (Daily News).

7/04/01
William Thompson, the ex-Board of Education president and investment banker who's running for city comptroller, broke a half a dozen securities regulations over his vaunted eight-and-a-half-year banking career, raising doubts about his qualifications for the city's second most important elected post. (Village Voice) Thompson denies the charge. (NY Times)

04/27/01
The man who wants to be the city's chief financial watchdog, former Board of Education President William Thompson, twice had liens filed against him for late income tax payments, the Daily News has learned. State tax officials filed the liens against Thompson in an attempt to get him to pay back taxes, once in 1984 for $11,165 and again in 1997 for $1,772. Thompson, who became Board of Education president in 1996, eventually did pay the taxes, fines and penalties. (Daily News)

3/15/01
The recent ruling by the city Conflicts of Interest Board that is forcing Board of Education President Bill Thompson to resign could have wide-ranging implications in future elections. The board ruled that high-ranking, appointed city officials cannot raise money if they are candidates for a city office. Since most prospective candidates begin raising money years before an election, the ruling means future candidates who are top city employees will either have to quit years before they run or hold off raising money until closer to the election. The ruling affects up to 2,000 city officials. (Crain's NY)

3/14/01
On an almost daily basis, the two Democratic candidates for New York City comptroller, City Council member Herb Berman and Board of Education President William C. Thompson Jr. wander from one political function to another, hoping to entice any who will listen to pay attention to the race for the city's No. 3 job. The city comptroller regularly performs audits of the city budget and makes budget recommendations, as well as approves all city contracts. The annual salary is $160,000. No Republican candidate has materialized. (NY Times)

2/11/01
The recent ruling by the Conflicts of Interest Board that bars appointed officials, but not elected ones, from campaign fundraising unless they resign, will affect several races: Brooklyn Borough President (where deputy borough president Jeannette Gadson is a candidate and has been actively promoted by her boss Howard Golden); Staten Island Borough President (where deputy borough president James Molinaro is a candidate and has been actively promoted by his boss Guy Molinari); Comptroller (where Board of Education President William Thompson, who sought the ruling from the Conflict of Interest Board, will now step down three months before his term ends. (Daily News)

2/06/01
Board of Education President William Thompson, running for city comptroller, said yesterday he would resign his post to comply with a ruling made last week by the Conflicts of Interest Board barring top city employees - but not elected officials - from raising campaign funds. (Daily News)

1/06/01
Thompson, "a fixture of black Democratic politics in Brooklyn" and the son of another fixture, has had some financial experience, working as a consultant for an investment banking firm, "the Board of Education is known for killing political careers, not making them," and some see him as too cozy with Mayor Giuliani. (Daily News)

08/15/00
Two months after helping win approval of a controversial new stadium in Coney Island for a minor-league baseball team owned by the Mets, City Council member Herb Berman received over $50,000 in campaign contributions from team owners and associates. The contributions were raised by Jeffrey Wilpon, son of Mets co-owner Fred Wilpon, on June 2, records show. Berman received checks of $4500--the maximum allowed under city campaign --from Jeffrey and Fred Wilpon, two other relatives of the Wilpons, and three executives in Wilpon's real estate firm, Sterling Equities. Other family members gave lesser amounts. All told, Berman received $54,000 from the Wilpons and their associates, accounting for more than 10 percent of the $504,000 collected thus far by the Brooklyn Democrat who is running for city comptroller next year. The Mets said the gifts followed a fundraising appeal from Berman's campaign. (Village Voice)

 

 

 

 

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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 endorsed 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.


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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
SavvyVoter.org
NYVote.com
Votesmart
NYPIRG
NY League of Women Voters
Common Cause New York

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

NAACP Voter Empowerment
Vote Smart

E-Voting
Election.com

Political consultants
Amer. Assc. of Pol. Consultants

Prime New York

Media
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
Conservative
Democratic
Green
Independence
Liberal
Republican
Right to Life
Working Families
Communist
Libertarian
Marijuana Reform
Natural Law Party
Socialist
Taxpayers Party

Political clubs and groups
Blueprint Camp. Finance Reform
DL21C
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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