Gotham Gazette

The Place for New York Policy and politics



Mayoral Candidates Atwitter Over Puerto Rican Day Parade

Mayor Michael Bloomberg was among tens of thousands of New Yorkers marching in yesterday's Puerto Rican Day Parade, as were many of the candidates who hope to replace him in Januray.

Many of the mayoral hopefuls took to the Twittersphere to show their committment the Latino community.

One of the candidates left more to the imagination.

While another marched in the parade not as a candidate but as an elected figure.

And despite being one of Twitter's most infamous tweeters, at least one candidate relied on media to capture his moment.

Se Puede? Latino Political Power In The 2013 Mayoral Race


NEW YORK — On a recent Sunday in April, state Sen. Gustavo Rivera and Democratic mayoral nominee Christine Quinn were standing in front of a Bronx bodega when they were approached by a father and his 10-year-old son.

The father, Javier Perez, knew the senator from his work in the neighborhood — and his son had even gone up to Albany to rally against school budget cuts. But Perez didn't know who Quinn was until Rivera told him.

"I want to introduce you to the next mayor," Rivera said to Perez in Spanish as the father then shook hands with Quinn, who was surrounded by her supporters carrying signs.

Perez praised Rivera's work in the Bronx and said he trusted the state senator's judgment. Seeing Quinn walk side-to-side with the Bronx leader convinced Perez that she would also look out for his and his family's needs.

"Very much so, of course." Perez said in Spanish. "She's a good candidate."

Quinn’s endorsement from Rivera was the opening salvo in what has become a string of endorsements from Latino politicians and community leaders north of the Harlem River. Last week, Herman Badillo, the first Puerto Rican to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives, endorsed former Comptroller Bill Thompson as the candidate to replace Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio has the support of Bronx Assemblyman Luis Sepúlveda, and former Congressman Anthony Weiner wooed onlookers during this past weekend’s Puerto Rican Day Parade. In fact, all the candidates — Republican and Democratic — were out with flags and campaign signs down Fifth Avenue yesterday.

Related: Mayoral Candidates Atwitter Over Puerto Rican Day Parade

The city’s Latinos are an increasingly important voting bloc, accounting for almost 30 percent of registered voters. Mayoral candidates, and Democratic candidates vying for their party’s nomination in particular, know this — just as they know that they need the influence of political leaders in the Bronx to sway Latinos in their favor.

At least two candidates have already declared that the Latino vote is vital for their campaigns if they stand any chance of making it to City Hall. Democratic upstart Erick Salgado and independent candidate Adolfo Carrión are two Latino candidates who think they can break through to what may be their most natural base.

Their challenge is the same one that their fellow rivals face: how do they drive a divided Latino electorate to the primary, much less the general election without a clearly defined, signature issue the way immigration has been on the national level.

Without that singular issue, Latino leaders are divided on who they think can best address their community’s needs, making their endorsements all the more important as a means to turn out the vote.

"What you have now is a very disorganized, fragmented kind of political situation," Angelo Falcón of the National Institute for Latino Policy. "There seems to be no real coordination or strategic thinking about the role of the Latino vote."


It's nearly impossible to separate the story of Latinos' political power from the Bronx's story. In 2010, the borough became the first to boast more than half of the population to identify as Latino or Hispanic.

The 2010 Census counted almost 1.4 million Bronxites. Of those, 740,000 are Latino — a 15 percent jump from just ten years earlier. Most of those residents — as well as registered voters — are Puerto Rican and Dominican, although of Central and Southern American immigrants are a growing percentage of the population.

On a national level, if talking heads and pollsters are to be believed, Latinos were integral to the 2012 election. Both the presidential campaigns vied desperately for votes from one of the fastest growing minority groups across the country.

The Republican Party's inability to attract what it argued was a natural political base fascinated pollsters and politicians alike. Ultimately, Latinos went for Obama. Exit polls from the Pew Research Center found that Latinos favored the Democrat over Republican challenger Mitt Romney, 71 to 27 percent.

But Latinos certainly didn't vote in numbers proportionate to their size.

Census figures show that while Latinos represent almost 11 percent of voters during the presidential election, only about half of the currently eligible 23.7 million Latinos turned out in 2012. Among the five boroughs, the Bronx had the second lowest turnout for the presidential election. Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens each brought out over 450,000 votes for Obama, compared to the Bronx's 339,211.

Last year, the city's Campaign Finance Board released a report evaluating data from the local Board of Elections and the Census that found turnout in the Bronx was lower than in Manhattan and Staten Island.

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The report, titled "Who Votes? Voter Turnout in New York City," also reported that — unsurprisingly — areas across the city with larger numbers of naturalized citizens and low educational attainment showed up to the poll in lower numbers, as did voters younger than 30.

"What motivated the Latinos on a national level was a fear of the Republican party," Falcón said. "Here in New York, I'm not sure that there's going to be any major motivator."

However, Juan Cartagena, president of LatinoJustice PRLDEF seems the glimmer of a motivating issue.

"This is the first time that I can remember when police strategies are front and center of an election," he said. Cartagena specified that while NYPD's relationship with minority communities has often come up during elections, an "endemic and systemic practice" like stop-and-frisk has not.

In May, a Quinnipiac poll showed that 58 percent of Latinos asked disapprove of the controversial police tactic, compared to 38 who support it. Still, 54 percent of Latino respondents said that they approve of Mayor Bloomberg’s job as mayor.

Still, Cartagena argued that policing might become a galvanizing wild-card issue for undecided Latinos.


The goal, as it is with any endorsement, is to draw the endorser's base into the political campaign, in which case early polling shows Quinn with a decent lead among Latino voters.

A separate Quinnipiac poll that reported a high number of undecided registered Democrats also revealed that that 25 percent of the Latino respondents said that they would vote for Quinn. A subsequent Marist College poll gave her a 35 percent favorability rating with Latinos.

After Sen. Rivera announced his endorsement for Quinn, the Council speaker told the Gotham Gazette that she recognized the Latino electorate's political heft. Quinn added that her campaign sees a great deal of diversity from within the community that calls for aggressive outreach.

"We're trying to spend as much time as we can in those communities," Quinn said, and that she understands the responsibility of making an impression on her political endorsers' constituents.

But endorsements don’t always play out in the poll. Former Congressman Anthony Weiner is rated by Latinos as their second pick in Quinnipiac’s poll, and has no formal endorsements — Latino or otherwise.

Qunnipiac also reported that it's not much better for Carrión. The only major poll that has measured Carrión's chances, it said that less than 6 percent of respondents would definitely vote for the Independence candidate, compared to the 60 percent said that they were unlikely to or would definitely not vote for him.

Soon after, Salgado was identified recently by a Marist College poll as least-known candidate with three out of five respondents either not knowing him or being unable to rate him.

The Republican ticket doesn't fare much better with Latinos. Only 10 percent of respondents said that they would vote for Lhota over any Democratic candidate.

And while Latinos have a historical inclination towards the Democratic Party, the Democratic Party's loyalty to them is less clear. Falcon argued that Democrats are taking Latino voters for granted.

"Look at Carrión — he has to run as an independent, and Salgado's not really a serious Democratic Party candidate," said Angelo Falcón of the National Institute for Latino Policy.

"I think that's a reflection of the irony that Latinos have been the most loyal to the Democratic Party, but the Democratic Party has not been responsive to the Latino community."



Diversity of opinion is a hallmark in any political race, but Falcón said that the city's Latino leadership is more diffuse — even fractured — on its mayoral preferences now than it has been in previous races.

Falcón said that one would think the political leaders would see the value in combining their political clout, not unlike they have in the past. Falcón referred to Latino voters' relative cohesiveness on display during Fernando Ferrer's 2001 failed mayoral campaign.

Ferrer went from Bronx borough president to the first leading Latino mayoral candidate in 2001. Ferrer, who is of Puerto Rican descent, beat out most of his fellow challengers in the Democratic primary to in the unsuccessful bid to replace then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Ferrer declined to be interviewed for this story due to his current position as acting MTA chief after Republican candidate Lhota entered the race.

A 2001 report from the Center for Urban Research at the City University of New York revealed that Latino neighborhoods in the Bronx and parts of northern Manhattan not only went heavily for Ferrer in the Democratic primary, but also turned out in higher numbers.

It wasn't enough. Ferrer ultimately lost the ticket to Mark Green, who then eventually lost to then-Republican candidate Michael Bloomberg by two percentage points.

When Ferrer ran again in 2005, he secured the Democratic ballot line in the general election after Anthony Weiner dropped out of the primary. Despite massive institutional support, Ferrer lost again to Bloomberg.

Ferrer's second loss, this time by almost 20 percentage points, has since been blamed on a number of factors, including headlines about police violence, Bloomberg's $78 million in campaign spending and a fractured Democratic party.

But in the face of those variables, the Bronx still had Ferrer's back. It was the only borough Ferrer won, almost 60 percent to Bloomberg's 40 percent. Citywide, eight in 10 Latino New Yorkers supported Ferrer, even if Latinos turned out in low numbers.

"Ferrer had the opportunity to play the role of a Latino pioneer," Falcón said, adding that legitimate Latino candidates since Ferrer have been few and far between. "Everybody seems to be all over the place and maybe they haven't developed the kind of machinery to be successful for running."

Even non-Latino candidates with strong campaign machinery struggle with Latino turnout. It was low for Ferrer in 2005, and again in 2009 when Bill Thompson ran as the Democratic candidate against Bloomberg's bid for a third term. Still, despite the close margin — Bloomberg's 50.7 percent to Thompson's 46.3 percent — Thompson did sweep the minority vote.

Bronx Borough President Rubén Díaz, Jr. stood with Thompson in 2009, and did so again this year, standing with the former comptroller in front of City Hall four months before the Democratic primary. Surrounded by Thompson's supporters, Díaz said it was important for Latino leaders to speak out early in the race.

"It's incumbent upon me and some of the elections in the Bronx to make sure that we have the Latino community vote in bigger numbers than ever," Díaz said.

When a Spanish-language reporter asked him why he wouldn't endorse either of the Latino candidates in the race, Díaz doubled down on his alliance with Thompson.

"The reality is that this is my candidate, and I'll support him without fear," he said in Spanish. "Especially when you're comparing him with other candidates who are Latino."


In many ways, Adolfo Carrión's career exemplifies the rise of a Latino politician in New York.

The Manhattan-born, Bronx-raised Carrión was brought up in an observant Protestant family. With a bachelor's degree from downtown Manhattan's King's College and a master's from Hunter College, Carrión focused his educational energies on urban city planning.

He eventually serving as a community board manager and one term on City Council before his eye turned to the Bronx borough presidency, taking over the seat from Ferrer.

After two terms in the office, Carrión left the Bronx for Washington D.C., presiding over the Office of Urban Affairs and later as a regional director for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Carrión remained a Democrat all throughout his time in the Bronx and Washington D.C. That changed when he announced his candidacy for mayor in 2012. Running on the Independence Party ticket, Carrión said he wants to be the city's first Latino mayor.

"My job between now and November is to convince my community that I want to be a mayor for all New Yorkers but, by God, I understand the historic opportunity we have," he said.

Carrión describes himself as a socially liberal yet fiscally conservative independent, which he figures falls in line with both many Latinos and New Yorkers at large.

It's not an unreasonable conclusion, given the last three terms of the candidate that bested Ferrer. Bloomberg, a former Democrat himself, aligned with the Republican Party in his first campaign. Bloomberg also handily defeated the first ever Latino Bronx borough president, Herman Badillo, for the GOP's nod in 2001.

Carrión — who has so-far raised about $1 million with about half still in the bank — breaks away from the mayor on a few issues, most notably stop-and-frisk. If elected mayor, he said that he'd tweak the controversial program. Otherwise, Carrión doesn't seem to mind comparisons to Bloomberg, especially if it indicates a streak of independence among Latinos.

"I think that they respect the fact that he calls it as he sees it," he said. "That's the genius that I see in the electorate. People have been voting out of their comfort zones for some time."

The ease with which voters are electing people outside of party loyalty, Carrión added, applies just as much to Latinos in 2013. His campaign knows it, and is trying to make the case that Latinos can jump to the Independence Party ballot line.

The Independence Party is a mainstay of New York City politics, helping a then-Republican-backed Bloomberg secure a second spot on the 2001 ballot. The city's rule on fusion voting lets candidates appear on the ballot more than once and still have the aggregate between lines go towards their total vote counts, which Carrión will also try to repeat.

Earlier this year, Carrión tried to get the support from GOP county leaders that he would have needed to get a ballot line, being that he's not a registered Republican. He failed to do so, but he's taken it in stride and said he's focused his energies on turning out Latinos to the polls.

The move didn’t settle well with many of his fellow colleagues, including two his borough presidency predecessors Badillo and Diaz. And the candidate’s campaign has also been marred by accusations of unethical, pay-for-play behavior during his time as borough president, charges that Carrión has denied as "pure fabrication."

Carrión is only looking forward.

"In 2009, we had a turnout of less than 30 percent," Carrión said as he did the math. "So total voters were about 1.78 million. Of that, 16 percent were Hispanic. So we're punching below our weight right now."

Carrión continued to add up his prospects, saying that he's banking on 125,000 votes from independents and about 75 percent of the Latino vote to take the mayor's race. To that end, his campaign has made some effort to reach out specifically to Latinos. The same week that Carrión spent an extended weekend in Puerto Rico meeting with local leaders, he released his first campaign web ad.

Titled "Waking the Sleeping Giant," the minute-long ad cuts between stock video and clips of Carrión on the campaign. Releasing both an English and Spanish version, the videos have been watched more than 9,000 times.

"People always ask me what will it mean to be New York's first Latino mayor," Carrión reads in a voice-over. "My response is always the same: If I'm elected mayor it means we have awakened the sleeping giant — hemos despertado al gigante dormido."

But observers say Carrión hasn’t been able to stir much of anything. Cartagena noted that Carrión has so far acted like a non-entity in the race.

"He'll only start taking votes if he becomes more physical in the race," Cartagena said. "The sooner he does it, the better for him."

The fact that Erick Salgado, who Cartagena predicts will play little to no role in the election, seems to be getting just as much if not more media attention than Carrión should worry the former borough president.

"That speaks more about Carrión's campaign than about Salgado," he said.


Erick Salgado has never served in political office, and he thinks it's his ace-in-the-hole.

Salgado often makes it a point to declare himself as the only candidate who isn't a career politician. A reverend by trade, he lives with his wife and children in Staten Island and operates two primarily Latino churches in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn. That said, he's also still a Bronxite.

Born in the borough to Puerto Rican parents, Salgado's family moved back to the Caribbean when he began to suffer from asthma as a child. He returned to the city in his late teens, focusing his studies on theological work. Salgado eventually opened the doors to two Latino churches in Brooklyn, and has taken his messaging to the airwaves, eventually purchasing a radio frequency for his ministry.

If Carrión is a social liberal and fiscal conservative, Salgado is in some ways his ideological opposite.

Despite a few odd answers to questions about what he would do on certain issues as mayor, such as increasing access to firearms for women as a way to decrease domestic violence, Salgado has come out in favor of hiring more police, providing undocumented immigrants with a municipal ID card and increasing financial support for programs that help immigrants, who he often calls the city's "most vulnerable."

During his debut appearance on a televised mayoral forum on NY1, Salgado also floated the idea of Rudy Giuliani as his potential police commissioner. The only Latino on stage at the time, he also told the audience about how he was randomly stopped — but not frisked — a few weeks before.

"Nothing good comes from stop-and-frisk when you're Latino," Salgado said in Spanish before the live audience laughed when moderator Errol Louis offered him sympathy.

Those laughs don't faze Salgado. He takes the laughs about his thick accent and unconventional politics as a Democratic candidate in stride, perfectly aware that some people aren't taking his campaign seriously.

"When we finish up fixing the city," he said in Spanish during a recent fundraiser in the Bronx, "they are going to love my accent."

However, one of his platform issues seems to have caught the attention of at least one rival.

When Bill de Blasio pushed the idea of a municipal ID card in a mid-May Daily News editorial, Salgado sent out a press release thanking his rivals for backing his idea, even if they didn’t give him credit, before questioning their motives.

"As elected officials they had the opportunity to introduce legislation that would create these cards long before campaign season," he wrote. "Could this just be a tactic to get the Hispanic vote?"

As far as his own targeting of the Hispanic vote, Salgado is bucking the conventional wisdom. Salgado refused to believe that Latinos are as liberal as the recent polls paint them to be. He thinks that the Latino community is as traditional as some Republican pundits allege, and that a less intrusive government combined with the preservation of family is just what New York City needs.

His opposition to abortion rights and gay marriage, though, has helped him find his base. When introducing the candidate to a crowd of Latino ministers at a campaign event, Sen. Rubén Díaz, Sr. — Salgado’s most ardent political ally — made it clear why they should donate to the campaign.

"He is only one who will bring Christianity to City Hall," Díaz shouted over applause as the candidate walked through the crowd. Díaz went on to tell the crowd that the Latino voters were key to Salgado's campaign, but that a growing coalition of conservative voters behind Salgado was already in the works.

In addition to help from Díaz's faith-based machine, Salgado has a fan in fellow Bensonhurst radio host Gregory Davidzon. Widely regarded in political circles as a leading voice for South Brooklyn's Russian and Jewish communities, Davidzon has praised Salgado's faith-driven initiatives on air, helping connect the candidate to the borough's Orthodox and religious leaders.

The candidate has channeled more than $50,000 in campaign funds to Davidzon and his radio station for advertising, office space and campaign consultations. Overall, Salgado’s latest campaign filing show that he managed to raise more than $200,000, but has an outstanding balance of almost $35,000.

Salgado’s conservative credentials resurfaced again during a mayoral forum hosted by the Flatbush Jewish Community Coalition in early June. The candidate defended the Orthodox community from government intervention on religious practices.

"They are marching here every year in the New York gay pride parade, they're marching over here, trying to band together," Salgado said tangentially, but to the crowd's applause.

When deBlasio — a favorite among progressive circles — said that he would defend both LGBT and Orthodox communities, a handful of Orthodox audience members responded by chanting "shame."

Even so, Salgado said that his conservative beliefs don't make him any less of a candidate for the Democratic ticket.

"I'm a Democrat," Salgado said, "and I'm still standing for most of what Democrats stand for."


The Latino electorate can be as ideological diverse any other, but both Carrión and Salgado admit that any likelihood of either of them becoming mayor hinges on Latino voters turning out the vote. And it might be for naught if the last three elections since are any indication.

New Census figures revealed in May that fewer Latinos actually voted in 2012 than in the last presidential election. While Obama did win with the wide margin of Latino votes, the Census attributed a spike in registration to expected population growth.

Getting them out to vote may mean connecting with Latinos on the issues. And, for the most part, the issues that matter to them are what matter to just about everyone else.

Back on West Fordham Road, Billy Gonzalez stood in front of his deli store's counter. Gonzalez said that whoever replaces Mayor Bloomberg needs to focus on bringing jobs to the neighborhood.

After operating the deli for 15 years, Gonzalez said that he's seen neighbors who used to come as regular customers ask for food. While Gonzalez said that he does what he can for those who ask, he wants to see them do the same thing: "help the people."

As a small business owner, he said he's not worried about things like paid sick leave or the city's Health Department overreaching with its policies. Gonzalez said that one thing above all else can help fellow New Yorkers get ahead.

"Education is the number one thing in life," Gonzalez said. "I have six kids, and they're all in public school."

Marisol Ventura has lived in New York since 1985. Having gone through bout of unemployment and homelessness, recently finding a room in an apartment off of Creston Avenue and a factory job to help pay her $450 in monthly rent.

"I wish I had money only so that I don't have to ask for it from the city," Ventura said, before asking that the city prioritize help for the poorest New Yorkers.

"And my struggle isn't just mine,” she said. “Others are in much worse shape.”

She emphasized the need for affordable housing and well-paying jobs that help people get off social programs, and how the challenges in front of the Latino community aren’t so different from anybody else.

"The Hispanic family is the same as the American family," Ventura said.

Lessons of 1977: Will Quinn Be The Next Ed Koch or Bella Abzug?


NEW YORK — Once again in 2013, the leading candidate for mayor is a woman: Christine Quinn as Bella Abzug was in 1977.

Quinn has become one of the most powerful woman politicians in the city through her role as City Council speaker. Abzug was a lieutenant to US House Speaker Tip O’Neill. Both had roots in community organizing.

While supporters of both acknowledge they are very different politicians for very different times, once again the most negative articles in the press are about the woman frontrunner.

Abzug was cast in the media as shrill, strident and loud — with one reporter calling her the “Muhammad Ali of feminist politicians” — and portrayed, at least once, as a witch on a broomstick in a cartoon.

While the New York Times has done some soft features on Quinn — showing her at her weekend home with her wife, Kim Catullo, and exchanging ideas with Holland Taylor who is playing Texas woman trailblazer Ann Richards on stage — in March it ran a front-page report on the trouble she has controlling her temper and how she has used her power as speaker to punish Council members who do not accede to her wishes. Some of her supporters have called the story a hit job.

In the first part of our look back at the 1977 race — and what lessons may be drawn from it for this year’s race — we showed how the specific social backdrop of that year shaped a tumultuous field of contenders, while the New York Post as a newly conservative voice in the city worked successfully to shape the outcome. In the end, though, predicting the race before the primary was a gamble.

In this part, we look in particular at Quinn as the frontrunner in the Democratic field, which was complicated in recent days with the entry of former Congressman Anthony Weiner. We also look at the LGBT vote then and now; the Post’s diminished role in the election; the gender gap; and race and the mayoralty.

As Quinn seeks to become the first woman mayor, Quinn owes a debt to Abzug who was the first serious woman candidate to run. But Quinn has governed and run her campaign more as what Ed Koch pitched himself as in 1977 — a “liberal with sanity.” And she surely does not want to end up as Abzug did: fourth in a crowded field.

And with no one issue as yet proving transformative in the race, the 2013 election outcome may prove to be even more unpredictable than the race in 1977.


While Quinn is an out lesbian and has been endorsed by national gay rights organizations, Koch’s sexuality was a topic of rumors and innuendo throughout his political career — including the infamous “Vote for Cuomo, Not the Homo” poster campaign run by Cuomo supporters in conservative districts.

A lifelong bachelor, Koch did his best during the 1977 campaign to imply that he was heterosexual, making sure to be photographed holding hands with former Miss America Bess Myerson.

Once in his mayoralty he told an interviewer that he was heterosexual, a proclamation that made the front page of Newsday and was derided by his critics, especially by ACT UP, the then-radical direct action organization that was working to call attention to the plight of people with HIV/AIDS.

Thereafter, Koch resolutely refused to answer questions about his sexual orientation and when confronted with evidence of his homosexuality by the makers of the documentary “Outrage!” walked off the set spewing a barnyard epithet. At his death, even his closest gay friend acknowledged it would have been better if Koch had come out about who he was.

Quinn so identifies with Koch that she led a successful campaign in the City Council to rename the Queensborough Bridge for him—over the objections of some Queens Council Members such as Peter Vallone, Jr., who said they wouldn’t even think of renaming the Brooklyn Bridge.

Koch endorsed Quinn for mayor back in December 2011, telling The New York Times: “I believe that she is center-left, which is what I am. Of all the candidates, Christine is the best able to follow in the steps of Mayor Bloomberg and myself.”

When Koch did pass away earlier this year, Quinn said: “I can remember seeing him on TV when I was a little girl and thinking to myself, ‘If I could ever meet him it would be a dream come true.’ Years later when I was working at the Anti-Violence Project, I was in the midst of a very public battle with City Hall. Mayor Koch called me out of the blue. I had never spoken to him in my life. He told me, ‘You’re doing the right thing. Don’t back down, and call me if I can do anything.’”

“New Yorkers want Daddy as their mayor,” my co-host on “Gay USA,” Ann Northrop, has hypothesized. “They just want someone to take care of them so they don’t have to —and tell them what to do and to give the illusion of strength against everything they fear.”

That may explain some of the tolerance New Yorkers have for zealous policing, like stop-and-frisk that has only now become a serious political issue.

(It may also be why, even this late in the race, there is unabated interest in some quarters for Ray Kelly for mayor — who gets high marks for his performance as police commissioner but is a virtual unknown on the many other issues a mayor has to deal with.)

But it is unclear yet who is wearing the pants in this race — Quinn or one of her opponents — or if the tough stance this year will be about who will keep order or who will restore some balance to the city’s treatment of the middle class and poor.

Allen Roskoff, a gay activist who has been involved in city politics since the era of Mayor John Lindsay and is now president of the Jim Owles Liberal Democratic Club, a left-leaning citywide LGBT outfit, derides Quinn as “the Abe Beame” of this race. “She has effectively been deputy mayor for the last eight years and people want change,” he said.

Mike Morey, spokesman for the Quinn campaign, told the Gotham Gazette that Quinn sees herself as someone in the mold of both Abzug and Koch.

"The passion and fire of Bella Abzug and the everyman common-sense of Ed Koch have both had strong and lasting influences on Christine Quinn's approach to public service," Morey wrote in an email. "She believes in telling the truth, standing by principle, and pushing hard to get things done and she believes that's what New Yorkers want in a mayor."

Quinn has also dedicated a good part of her campaign to trying to distance herself from the mayor she has worked closely with, while not alienating the voters who approve of him.

In particular, she has backed legislation that would create an inspector general for the police department — an idea Bloomberg has decried — and made more pro-union education proposals, such as making school closings a “last resort”--that have been attacked by Bloomberg’s schools chancellor, Dennis Walcott.

Much is different this year, however. Quinn did indeed give Bloomberg the opportunity for a third term in 2009 by extending term limits for him — and herself and her fellow Council members.

But Bloomberg is not nearly as unpopular as Beame was nor has he presided over the same kind of catastrophes as Beame, unless you are looking at how unaffordable the city has become for the middle class and poor — themes being hammered by several of Quinn’s opponents.

Indeed, Quinn herself says “middle class” as often as she can while campaigning. Anthony Weiner got in the race last week touting his middle-class roots and was quickly attacked by Bill De Blasio, the public advocate who also hopes to mayor, for living on Park Avenue now. After 12 years of being ruled by the wealthiest person in the city, the candidates all seem to be banking on the populace wanting someone more like them to govern now.


While both Koch and Abzug had represented liberal Manhattan Congressional districts and were the lead sponsors of the federal gay rights bill, Abzug was seen as the darling of gay and lesbian voters in 1977.

When a national blow was dealt to gay rights in June of that year with the overturning of a gay rights ordinance in a Miami referendum, thousands of shocked and angry demonstrators in New York marched to Abzug’s home in Greenwich Village as if asking mama to make it better.

Koch appeared at a raucous gay rally in the Village the night of that setback amidst boos for politicians, but his refusal to be dissuaded by that impressed me enough as a 23-year old activist to vote for him that year.

(By 1989, Koch was such a target of anger for AIDS activists that he was shouted down by hundreds of them when he tried to dedicate Stonewall Place in the Village.)

Koch also worked behind the scenes for the gay vote, becoming one of the first major politicians to court the emerging constituency. At that time, most gay and lesbian New Yorkers were not living openly in the workplace and may have identified with Koch’s approach to his sexuality.

This year, Quinn — out, proud, and married to attorney Kim Catullo — enjoys the support of most LGBT groups and donors including the national Gay & Lesbian Victory Fund, but she also is supported by many of the rank-and-file LGBT voters who are looking for the validation of an out lesbian winning such a high office.

The rest of the Democratic candidates also have strong records on LGBT rights.

Albanese cast a critical vote for the 1986 gay rights bill from his conservative Bay Ridge district. Thompson and Liu used the comptroller’s shareholder power to get corporations to adopt non-discrimination policies. Weiner championed LGBT rights in Congress. And de Blasio has a solid record of support and the distinction of having married a woman who was once a leading lesbian writer, Chirlane McCray.

None of the candidates for the Republican nomination profess to be anything but pro-LGBT rights, though George McDonald and Joe Lhota marched in the St. Patrick’s Day Parade that most all Democrats have been boycotting since it excludes Irish LGBT contingents.


Quinn is holding on to some major feminist support, including from Abzug’s daughter Liz and former Councilwoman Ronnie Eldridge, a liberal lion who was a protégé of Bobby Kennedy, once a special assistant to Lindsay and now hosts “Eldridge & Co.” on CUNY-TV.

Gloria Steinem held out on Quinn until she let the sick leave bill onto the floor of the Council, albeit in a watered-down form after a three-year hold up.

“I wish it could have been faster,” Steinem told The New York Times, while praising Quinn as someone who “has lived a life that allows her to understand the lives of most New Yorkers.”

But Steinem added, “I wish Bella Abzug had been mayor.”

Her daughter, Liz Abzug, said that a Times story on Quinn’s temper reminds her of some of the negative press coverage that her mother Bella endured in 1977, also as “the one woman in the race.”

Veteran Assemblywoman Deborah Glick, who has endorsed Quinn, said: “I thought that the Times front-page piece on Chris [about her temper] had an underlying element of sexism for sure. I am always entertained by young women reporters who say there isn’t sexism. I do think there was an element of it. There are a number of men in office who yell and who threaten and I just found it mind-boggling the level of uneven application of scrutiny.”

Lincoln historian Harold Holzer, who served as Bella Abzug’s press spokesman in Congress, said he was concerned that Quinn was facing the same treatment as Abzug.

“I have never seen so many assaults so concentrated on [Abzug] by so many people in the establishment, including the newspapers,” he said. “The Post would do anything they could to beat her down and make her seem responsible for the Son of Sam, the riots in Brooklyn and the blackout.”

He said Koch attacked her for her “leniency” and belief in a right to strike and the death penalty.

“She and Mario did not believe in a life for a life, and were excoriated for it,” Holzer said. “She went from 36 percent to 16 percent. I’m not ready to play the historian’s role, but I do see Christine Quinn enduring an unfair expectation of having to be everything to everybody and the men and straight candidates are not” burdened with those expectation.

Which brings us to the gender gap, a term, Liz Abzug said, that wasn’t used or polled for until her mother wrote a book about it in 1983.

“Before that,” she said, “the differences in the way women voted was not a discussion point.” Now, the gap between how women and men vote is regularly polled for and marked differences have emerged. The 2012 presidential election saw the biggest national gender gap in history, with Barack Obama winning women by 12 percent and Romney winning men by 8 percent. Obama won the war for women, successfully tarring the national Republican Party as conducting a war on women.

To Liz Abzug, a lot has changed since her mother ran.

“I think a woman — as we’ve seen in many cities — can be a person who is strong enough to break down the violence in an environment,” she said. “I don’t know if it is a better atmosphere for a woman. We’ve seen women in key positions as opposed to ’77 — Speaker of the House, mayoralties in cities big like Houston and small — presidencies internationally. It is more accepted that women can govern from strength, toughness, passion — and heart — and still be commander-in-chief. It is just less of an issue.”

Still, we’ve never had a woman mayor. Carol Bellamy ran on the Liberal line against Ed Koch in 1985, and got beaten badly; former Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger was the Democratic nominee in 1997 against Rudy Giuliani and got bested by a 12-point margin. We have had a woman comptroller, Liz Holtzman, Bellamy as Council president, and Betsy Gotbaum as public advocate.

While early polls showed no gender gap for Quinn, the April 15-18 Quinnipiac poll had her leading with 31 percent of women and 24 percent of men with Anthony Weiner polling at 12 percent of women and 20 percent of men, a gap most would attribute to his fame for sending erotic pictures of himself to women strangers. A gap had emerged.

But by the May 22 Quinnipiac poll, Quinn had less of a gap with 23 percent men for her and 26 percent of women, while Thompson fared better with men by six points (14-8 percent) and Weiner with men by four (17-13 percent). John Liu, who faded to 6 percent overall in the current poll has the support of twice as many women (8 percent) as men (4 percent).


While Koch would tell you that Rupert Murdoch made him mayor along with his campaign manager David Garth, it is unclear if Murdoch’s New York Post still has that kind of power even though it has already attacked Quinn, labeling her as “Mayor Dracula” based on a vampish New York magazine cover.

One headline says she is going for the “the Bella donna look” in what may have supposed to have been a reference to Bela Lugosi who played Dracula in the 1930s, but also summoned up the memory of Bella Abzug.

The paper has also gone after de Blasio for revelations that his wife had been a lesbian and Liu for the misdeeds of his aides. And they never tire of making front-page Weiner sex jokes.

In 1977, the Post aggressively went after Abzug over her pro-labor stances. According to historian Chris McNicle, Abzug sealed her fate when she backed the right of police and firefighters to strike just days before the city was blacked out and riots terrified whole neighborhoods. “That was bad politics in a city preoccupied with law and order,” McNicle wrote in “To Be Mayor of New York: Ethnic Politics in the City.”

It is hard to tell yet who Murdoch or the rest of the city’s more establishment sectors (real estate and finance) want for mayor, but they have ways of letting their thoughts be known through attacks in the media and by where they spread their donations.

A big difference this year is that Murdoch is losing his grip on his media empire due to scandals in Britain.

And money will play less of a role with most of the candidates in the campaign finance system that matches the donations they get 6-to-1 but limits their spending at each stage of the race. No one but billionaire John Catsimatidas is self-financing.

So far the biggest independent expenditures have come from left-leaning labor and animal rights activists doing their best to define Quinn in a negative way before she can run ads defining herself. The strategy has echoes in the way independent supporters of Obama painted Romney as an out-of-touch vulture capitalist while Romney was tied up fighting for the Republican nomination last year and unable to free up the funds to answer those attacks.


While we did get a one-term black mayor in David Dinkins at a time of great racial unrest in 1989 after what was perceived as an era of racial polarization under Koch, Dinkins lost to Giuliani in 1993 partly because Dinkins was seen as not being able to control the racial unrest in Crown Heights that year.

We have never had a Latino mayor, despite Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer coming close to winning the Democratic nomination in 2001 against Mark Green, who went on to lose a squeaker to Bloomberg in the chaotic aftermath of 9-11. Ferrer came back to win the Democratic nomination in 2005, but lost to Bloomberg big.

The people of color in this year’s race are Thompson, who came within 4.4 points of knocking off Bloomberg in 2009 despite being up against another $100 million Bloomberg campaign; and Liu, who despite the shadow of convictions of some of his top campaign aides, has a solid base in Asian communities and deep ties to other communities of color and labor. (Thompson also enjoys close ties to the city’s Orthodox Jewish community.) And there is Carrion, who left the Democratic Party and sees a path to victory as a Republican and as the Independence Party nominee where the current Quinnipiac poll has him pulling 12 percent on that line—obviously not enough to win but more than enough to be a factor in the fall.

So far, the biggest racial issue in the contest is where the candidates stand on the stopping and frisking of hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers each year, most of them youth of color. Positions vary from Liu, who wants it banned, to Lhota who wants it maintained with the others on a scale in between.


Veteran Times reporter Sam Roberts wrote last week about how the current mayoral race puts him in mind not just of the 1977 contest, but the one in 1973 when there was no incumbent, calling them all “heavily contested” and “unpredictable.”

While this year Anthony Weiner has gotten in two years after a scandal, Roberts noted that, in 1973, Congressman Mario Biaggi was the frontrunner until it was revealed that he had taken the Fifth Amendment in a corruption trial. That let Beame get into a runoff with Badillo who undid himself by referring to Beame as “a malicious little man” — the kind of misstep in a long campaign that can derail one’s prospects.

Roberts wrote that Beame was supposed to sit out the 1977 race after presiding over the fiscal crisis and endorse Manhattan Borough President Percy Sutton, an African American. And he credits Gov. Hugh Carey with getting Cuomo the Liberal line to the great consternation of Beame.

Political consultant Hank Sheinkopf told the Times regarding this year’s race: “Now we have everybody splitting in a non-ideological environment, and that means anything can happen.”

The biggest lesson from 1977 is that this 2013 race, with all its permutations and combinations, is indeed impossible to predict. A large field makes it harder for voters to focus on what their choice is. And New York City polls have a history of being notoriously wrong.

The primaries are especially unpredictable, but on the Democratic side — unless Quinn or a rival pulls down 40 percent — it will be followed by a one-on-one runoff. The polls currently have her vanquishing her chief rivals in such a runoff, but it is early and the electorate has not focused on the alternatives.

If 1977 is an indicator, no matter who is on what line, the voters of New York City in the end won’t be looking at party affiliation but at the two candidates who have proved themselves most viable and choosing between them.

Right now, the relatively unknown Lhota loses 13 to 61 percent against “the Democratic candidate” according to the latest Quinnipiac poll. But let’s remember that the eventual 1977 winner, Ed Koch, was at about 4 percent in the polls at this stage. And, in 2001, Mike Bloomberg, the eventual winner, was polling at about 25 percent in the early stages.

And the candidates are mostly arguing about policing (the merits of stop-and-frisk), education (keep mayoral control or share governance more), affordable and public housing, and term limits (right or wrong to have extended them).

It may be that the issue that will define the candidates for the voters may not have come to the fore.

Andy Humm is the co-host of the weekly Gay USA cable TV show, a contributor to Gay City News, and a former city Human Rights commissioner.

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