The Race for Mayor
GOTHAM GAZETTE: SEARCHLIGHT ON CAMPAIGN 2001: MAYOR

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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

 

Campaign Update: At the first turn . . .

By Philip Lentz

The public may not be paying much attention yet, but the mayor's race is about to enter the first turn with some crucial decisions in the offing. Ballot petitions begin circulating June 5, making that an unofficial deadline of sorts for some of the city's top political leaders to choose sides and decide who will be their "organization" candidate in the September 11 primary.

The candidate most affected by these decisions is City Comptroller Alan Hevesi, whose fate very well could be decided by Memorial Day.

First, an update: The general outlines of the 2001 mayoral campaign have not changed much in months. Public Advocate Mark Green, the best known of the four major Democratic mayoral candidates, has maintained the top position in the public opinion polls and remains the man to beat. By running a cautious centrist campaign, many believe, he has virtually assured himself of gaining one of the two coveted spots in a Democratic runoff, which would occur if no candidate gets 40 percent.

The other three candidates -- Hevesi, Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer and City Council Speaker Peter Vallone -- are scrambling for that second runoff slot. So far, Ferrer, employing the campaign's most strident anti-Giuliani rhetoric, has maintained a tenuous lead for the second spot. Hevesi and Vallone, both middle-of-the-road moderates from Queens, have found themselves at the bottom of the heap, each struggling to establish a base with outer-borough ethnics and a smattering of other voting blocs throughout the city.

Hevesi's languid early showing has surprised many observers, since the comptroller had raised more money than any other candidate and had been considered one of the stronger candidates in the field. But with primary expenditures capped at $5.5 million--each candidate has already raised that -- Hevesi's monetary edge no longer looks like that much of an advantage anymore.

Hevesi's mayoral strategy has been based on the expectation that he would get four key endorsements that would propel him into the runoff. That backing would come from the politically-powerful United Federation of Teachers, the Liberal Party ruled by potentate Ray Harding, the Queens Democratic machine run by Tom Manton and, finally in late summer, The New York Times.

However, Hevesi's poor showings in the polls has given cold feet to these potential backers, prompting Hevesi's media guru, Hank Morris, to throw a hail-mary pass six months before the primary, a one million dollar television ad blitz aimed at jump-starting the comptroller's campaign and improving his standing in the polls.

Early indications are that Hevesi's fortunes have been helped somewhat by the ad campaign. A recent Quinnipiac College poll showed Hevesi moving into third place behind Ferrer, a bump that has been reflected in private polls as well.

Now the key test: Have Hevesi's fortunes improved enough for some of his long-awaited endorsements to come home? Two of those endorsements will be made by mid-May, by Harding and Manton, and both could have a major impact on the campaign.

The Liberal Party endorsement is important because it would help Hevesi appeal to middle-of-the-road Democrats who voted for Mayor Rudy Giuliani in recent elections. The Liberal Party has backed Giuliani in the last three mayoral elections and, despite its name, is actually a centrist voice in local politics.

Harding and the Liberals have long been expected to be in the Hevesi camp; after all, Hank Morris and Harding are close and have worked together on other campaigns in the past. But in recent weeks, doubts have crept in.

First, there are those unimpressive poll numbers-did Harding really want to back a candidate who was fading, not gaining?

Second, there is the specter of Michael Bloomberg. The media magnate plans to run on the Republican line as the philosophical successor to Mayor Rudy Giuliani (never mind that he just became Republican last year). Like the mayor, he would like the Liberal Party line to appeal to Democrats squeamish about voting for a Republican. Bloomberg is also known to throw a lot of money at supporters (a la New Jersey Senator Jon Corzine) and Bloomberg's wallet could fund a lot of future Liberal Party political races.

Finally, there is the matter of Mayor Giuliani's recent jihad against Hevesi, prompted by a Hevesi television ad suggesting that Mr. Giuliani's police force engages in racial profiling. Steamed, the mayor ordered his friends and former aides helping Hevesi to cease and desist.

So the question: Does that order apply to Harding, one of the mayor's closest political confidantes? All this uncertainty has created an air of mystery around Harding's intentions.

Then there is the case of Tom Manton, the only remaining Democratic county chairman yet to make an endorsement in the mayor's race. With two Queens mayoral candidates, the endorsement of the Queens organization is crucial. It is hard to see how a Queens candidate can be considered a viable candidate for mayor if he cannot get the backing of his local Democratic leader.

There are strong forces among Queens Democrats pushing for both Vallone and Hevesi and Manton's response has been to dawdle and delay. "Constructive malingering" he calls it. But petition time is nearly here and he can't delay much longer. Does he go with Vallone, a long-time friend but whom many Democrats believe cannot be elected mayor? Or does he go with Hevesi, with whom he has had a rocky relationship in the past, but who could retaliate and threaten Manton's leadership if angered?

A decision is expected by late May.

What Harding and Manton decide will provide an early turning point in the mayoral race. If Hevesi gets both men's support, he will be able to claim "momentum" and look like a candidate on the rise. The UFT, which is leaning toward Hevesi but worried about his poll numbers, would likely be put at ease and endorse him later this spring. That means Hevesi would enter the summer in a strong position, help push him close to second place in the polls and maybe even make him the odds-on favorite to gain the runoff against his hated rival, Mark Green.

But if either Harding or Manton backs another candidate-or, horrors, if both men find other candidates to endorse-Hevesi's campaign could be grievously wounded.

The biggest beneficiary of a Hevesi fade may not be Vallone-it is unlikely Hevesi would leave the race if he lost some key endorsements-but Ferrer, who could see his strongest rival for second place fade from view. That could energize his Hispanic-black-white liberal coalition and help the borough president get into the runoff.

And Vallone? While the speaker has conducted a "Rose Garden" campaign based on City Council initiatives, it is hard to see how he can emerge as the premier challenger to Green as long as Hevesi remains in the race. And no matter how many misfortunes befall Hevesi, and no matter how much whispering his rivals try to put in reporters' ears, withdrawal seems an unlikely alternative.

Posted 4/25/01

Philip Lentz is the political reporter for Crain's New York Business.

Campaign Feature: Introducing The Four Tops

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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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