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What is Searchlight on Campaign 2001?
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?
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?
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
What does this have to do with this site?
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?
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?
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
Who are we?
Campaign Update: Still Looking Green
By Philip Lentz
It has been decreed (on the front page of the New York Times,
for one) that this mayoral campaign is dull and boring. When,
political pundits ask, are these guys going to start attacking
one another and make things interesting?
The attacks may be some time off, but the 2001 mayoral race
is about to get the definition and shape that will likely determine
the next occupant of Gracie Mansion. With the Sept. 11 primary
two months away, television ads by all the candidates are going
to begin soon, and that, finally, will likely alert the public
that an important election is indeed on the horizon.
While the four Democratic candidates are relatively well known-all
have been running for political office for several decades--these
ads will give each a chance to reintroduce himself to New York
City voters, tell his story and finally explain why he should
be the next mayor.
The odd thing about the 2001 mayoral race is how little things
have changed since the beginning of the year. Public Advocate
Mark Green has run a smart if
safe campaign and has kept his tentative lead in the polls.
Meanwhile, his three adversaries-City Comptroller
Alan Hevesi, Council Speaker
Peter Vallone and Bronx Borough President
Fernando Ferrer-have battled to secure the second place
slot needed to face Green one-on-one in a likely Sept. 25 runoff
(which would be held if no candidate gains 40 percent, considered
a likely occurrence).
At one time or another, each of Green's three challengers has
bobbed up into second place, but the truth is that the margin
separating them has usually been too small to give any of them
In fact, the hot news of the last few months has favored Green.
Not that it has been about Green. It hasn't and that's why it
has been to his advantage. While the tabloids blare about Rudy
and Judi and Donna and The New York Times records every tittle
and jot on the city's newest politician-Republican mayoral hopeful
Bloomberg -Green has been able to float under the radar
screen, putting out position papers, remaining unscathed.
That may soon change-frontrunners inevitably become targets-but
Green remains either the first or second choice of most demographic
voting groups and that assures that he will survive to the runoff
one way or another. Some, especially in rival mayoral camps,
say Green's support is thin and will fade, as frontrunners often
do (remember President Muskie or Mayor Abzug?). But given the
lack of a galvanizing issue or personality, knocking Green off
his perch may be more difficult as the primary approaches.
Many initially thought Hevesi had the best chance to challenge
Green. He had the most money, the strongest political support
and the most reputable political consultant in Hank Morris.
But despite an early media campaign waged in April and May,
Hevesi remains back in the pack. His heavy television barrage
did comfort some supporters and helped Hevesi lock up the backing
of the Queens Democratic organization and the Liberal Party.
But the third part of Hevesi's expected endorsement troika,
the United Federation of Teachers, remains on the sidelines,
depriving Hevesi of needed momentum and again raising doubts
about his campaign.
Hevesi's problem is that he has not been able to shake Peter
Vallone. Both Queens politicians are battling for the same chunk
of voters-mostly white, moderate, outer borough ethnics-and
many political observers believe if neither emerges as the favorite
of these voting blocks, both could miss the runoff. With some
polls showing Ferrer in second place, that theory has some validity.
More troubling for Hevesi is that Vallone, rather than fading
away, is starting to gain momentum. Despite lounging in the
political basement for most of the spring (many polls show the
speaker in fourth place), Vallone recently locked up the endorsement
of the powerful District Council 37 labor union, which represents
125,000 municipal workers.
DC 37 is the first major union to make an endorsement and its
decision gives the speaker a much-needed psychological shot
in the arm. Whether Vallone can rally enough to move into second
place is unclear, but if he's doing better, Hevesi must be doing
The prime beneficiary of the Vallone-Hevesi tussle is Freddy
Ferrer. Unlike his foes, Ferrer has staked out some clear political
turf on the left, trying to put together an Hispanic-black-white
liberal coalition angry at the excesses of the Giuliani years.
Ferrer is the only candidate with a strong, well-defined base-Latino
voters-and he needs only to add a smidgen of voters from several
other ethnic groups to get into the runoff.
The cornerstone to his strategy has been to attract black votes,
but Ferrer has so far had trouble denting Green's popularity
among African-Americans. Ferrer did win the endorsement of the
state's only black elected official, state Comptroller
H. Carl McCall, but most other black leaders are either
supporting other candidates (like former Mayor David Dinkins,
backing Green) or staying on the sidelines (like Rep.
Charles Rangel, the black leader of Harlem).
As a result, the fate of Ferrer's campaign may lie with the
90-day resident of the Brooklyn federal detention center who
has so far remained maddeningly neutral. Yes, the Rev. Al Sharpton's
endorsement may be what Ferrer needs to get into the runoff.
That backing seems likely, given that Sharpton shared the first
40 days of his confinement with Ferrer's campaign manager, Bronx
Democratic Chairman Roberto Ramirez (both were jailed for civil
disobedience to protest the Navy bombing on the Puerto Rican
island of Vieques).
But Sharpton long ago gained a reputation as mercurial and
unpredictable, so Sharpton's release in late August will undoubtedly
cause some fretful nail-biting at Ferrer headquarters later
Will Messrs. Hevesi, Vallone and Ferrer at some point aim their
fire at frontrunner Green? Probably, but a negative strategy
may not work. In a four-way race, there's no way to know a political
attack will ricochet. For example, if Hevesi goes after Green,
voters who become disenchanted with Green may turn not to Hevesi,
but to Vallone or Ferrer. Not knowing how the political billiard
ball will bounce makes negative ads very risky.
Could Green screw up and turn the Democratic primary into a
free-for-all? Of course. At some point in this campaign, the
smooth-sailing Green will run into turbulence and he will be
tested. It might be an off-handed remark, it might be a smirk
or it might be one of those glib sound bites for which he is
so well known. Or it might be an event-like a police shooting
or civil disturbance-where Green speaks too slowly or too quickly.
The test will come. The question is whether he will pass it
and, if he does not, whether any of his opponents can take advantage
of his stumble. Eight weeks to go, and the public is about to
tune in . . .
Philip Lentz is the political reporter
for Crain's New York Business.
Campaign Feature: Introducing The Four Tops
Campaign Feature: At The First Turn . . .
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
for Party Affiliation
Dream Party (AMD)
Better Schools Party (BES)
Friends United Party (FUN)
Fusion Party (FUS)
Harmony Party (HAR)
Marijuana Reform Party (POT)
Natural Law Party (NLP)
Party of Ethics and Traditions (PET)
Reform Party (Ref)
Right to Life (RTL)
School Choice Party (Sch)
Socialist Workers Party (SWP)
Working Families (Wor)
1 -- Deadline for candidates to join the Campaign Finance
program, qualifying for the four-to-one match of contributions.
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
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
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.