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Loyal Election Machine Could Help Disgraced Politician Win A Council Seat


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NEW YORK — With Vito Lopez having unceremoniously resigned from the state Assembly where he once lorded over the powerful housing committee, the career politician has turned his attention to getting elected to the City Council. And he just might succeed.

That’s because the two other candidates in the race for the 34th district — one of whom is being backed by Council Speaker Christine Quinn — could end up appealing to the same pool of voters, potentially splitting them and handing Lopez a victory.

Perhaps more importantly, the disgraced former assemblyman, who is accused of sexually harassing several women, will undoubtedly call on his deep, established base of neighborhood support in the district to get out the vote on Election Day.

“He’s a wonderful man, a wonderful politician,” said Lalo Burgos, 73, who lives in the district and runs a barbershop near Maria Hernandez Park in Bushwick. And he said Lopez takes care of residents. "That’s all that matters.”

John Mollenkopf, a professor at the Center for Urban Research of the CUNY Graduate Center, said that community support could make all the difference for Lopez.

"He runs an old-fashioned type of operation that’s very much based on loyalty," Mollenkopf said. "This will be a test of that loyalty.”

It also doesn’t take many votes to win in a Council primary: Diana Reyna, the term-limited Councilwoman who holds the seat, won in 2009 when there was no mayoral race, with 3,865 votes.

Last week’s release of an embarrassing state ethics report detailing allegations of Lopez’s misbehavior with female staffers led the 71-year-old legislator to announce his retirement at the end of the legislative session in June while also proclaiming his innocence.

The announcement was met with cries for an immediate resignation and movement within the Assembly to push him out of office.

Lopez then sped up his timeline. By Monday morning, his nameplate was taken from his office door and his Assembly web page was taken offline.

A second investigation, led by Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan as a special prosecutor, could find no basis for bringing criminal charges against Lopez. It did, however, call into question Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver’s role in a secret taxpayer-funded settlement for two of Lopez’s former staffers.

“I have maintained my innocence throughout this matter and I believe no criminal investigation should ever have been conducted,” Lopez said in his statement on May 17 announcing his resignation at the end of June before he was faced with the possibility of expulsion and resigned on Monday.

He said that he would focus on the Council race. “I expect to run a vigorous campaign on the issues facing the citizens of my community and hope to continue to serve them as a member of the City Council,” he said. “I believe that the voters of the community should decide who should represent them.”

Lopez and his representatives didn’t respond to requests for comment for this story.

The longtime politician’s deep ties to the Bushwick, Ridgewood and Williamsburg neighborhoods are rooted in his years as chair of the Assembly’s housing committee, through which he steered state money to his district for low-income housing and a popular senior center he created.

Founded in 1973, the Ridgewood Bushwick Senior Citizens Council, was one of the main beneficiaries of the money that Lopez made sure flowed from Albany to his district.

“He’s got a base of support through his social services that’s going to vote for him no matter what,” said Doug Muzzio, a political science professor at Baruch College.

And that, Muzzio says, could make the difference in how much the sexual harassment scandal plays into the Council race.

“In the ‘should’ world, this should kill him," Muzzio said. "But the ‘is’ world is another story.”

Muzzio said a split between the other two candidates could hand Lopez the spot on the Democratic ticket, tantamount to election in November. “It’s politics 101. If you want to win — split the competition,” Muzzio said.

Lopez lost some of his support when news leaked last year that Lopez had been accused of sexual harassment by several former female employees. Lopez, who had represented the 53rd Assembly District since 1984, was censured and stripped of his housing committee chairmanship — the very seat of power which he used to funnel funding to his constituents.

He also lost his seat as the Kings County Democratic Party chair, which he took over in 2006 from disgraced former Assemblyman Clarence Norman Jr., after he was convicted of taking illegal campaign contributions.

Well before the ethics commission report was released, anti-Lopez protesters gathered on a soggy April afternoon around the corner from a posh Williamsburg restaurant on the water.

Organized by local members of the National Organization for Women and a progressive Democratic club, the New Kings Democrats, 20 or so protesters shouted from the sidewalk as cars drove in for Lopez’s first fundraiser for the Council race.

“It’s outrageous that someone who’s been accused of sexual harassment has the chutzpah to run for City Council,” said Lincoln Restler, a New Kings Democrats member and former Brooklyn district leader. Created in 2008, the reform club has spent years organizing against Lopez and endorsing candidates to subvert his influence across the borough.

One of those candidates is Antonio Reynoso, who is also a member of the New Kings Democrats. But he’ll also have to face Tommy Torres, 40, in the district’s Democratic primary.

Reynoso is the chief of staff to the 34th district's term-limited Councilwoman Diana Reyna, a former top aide to Lopez turned bitter foe. The 30-year-old Brooklyn native grew up in Williamsburg’s South Side before leaving for college upstate.

By the time Reynoso came back to Brooklyn, he knew he wanted to be in politics even if he didn’t know where to start. He said he went out one day with two resumes: one for Reyna and one for Lopez.

Lopez’s office was closed that day; Reyna hired him. “God steered me in the right direction,” Reynoso said.

Reynoso makes no effort to hide his disdain for Lopez, especially in the wake of last week’s report. “He should resign immediately and step away from serving public office,” he said. “There’s no remorse. There’s no realistic understanding of what he’s done. And that’s the biggest crime.”

Reynoso isn’t the only one upset by Lopez’s bid for City Council, and he’s already received powerful backing for his run. Speaker Christine Quinn launched a “Women for Reynoso” campaign, naming Reynoso as the only viable option for the 34th District.

“We must ensure that Vito Lopez never sets foot in City Hall,” Quinn said in a statement.

Reynoso has also been endorsed by another Democratic progressive in the mayoral race, Bill de Blasio, and has gained the support of major unions — which Muzzio said will be a key factor in the race. To beat Vito, he said, “You need organizational muscle.”

To date, Reynoso has raised around $86,000 for the race. While Lopez has managed to net approximately $38,000 for his City Council run, The New York Post has already reported that Lopez might be able to roll over some of the more than $1 million he has in state campaign coffers.

Meanwhile, Torres, the third candidate for the Council seat, has raised close to $23,000. A public school teacher and athletic coach, Torres grew up in Cooper Park Houses, one of Greenpoint’s public housing developments.

Torres stayed in the borough for college, going to St. Francis College in Brooklyn Heights on a baseball scholarship. He followed that up with a master’s degree in education from Mercy College in Westchester County, which Torres said wouldn’t have been possible without the city’s public education program.

“I took advantage of the public schools,” said Torres over the phone after coaching a baseball game. “I came back to continue the good work.”

For either Reynoso or Torres to come out on top, they need to beat Vito’s ongoing popularity around the district. Throughout Bushwick, Lopez’s current constituents still say that they care more about his generosity than the allegations against him.

Caesar Bettencourt, 72, stood near a stoop along St. Nicholas Avenue as he defended Lopez.

“I think certain people are trying to make trouble for him,” said Bettencourt, a regular at the local senior center. “I think it’s all a setup. It’s politics.”

An earlier version of this article originally appeared in a NYCity News Service multimedia project entitled "Bushwick Beyond the Brand," which examines continuing changes in the neighborhood as the Bloomberg era comes to an end.

Two Pivotal Elections: What The 1977 Mayoral Race Can Tell Us About 2013


Bella Abzug For Mayor button

NEW YORK — Seven Democrats want their party’s nomination for mayor and the frontrunner is a woman who would be the first of her sex to lead City Hall. Two Democratic candidates of color may eat into each other’s bases. Credible candidates on the Republican side have a good shot at a win. Minor party designations could play a major role come November. The New York Post is angling to have a big say in who gets elected.

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The 2013 mayoral race? No, the 1977 free-for-all — the last big, multi-candidate election for mayor where almost nothing was predictable.

A look back at the contest that marked a shape-shift in the city over 35 years ago demonstrates how much has changed in both our politics and our social and economic make-up since then.

But to Kenneth Sherrill, professor of political science at Hunter College and was elected Democratic District Leader in 1977, it is the voters who have changed most of all.

“A lot of the voters of that election are dead, the city is much less white, the make-up of white ethnics has changed, there was no Asian American vote then, and the immigrant population wasn’t what it is now,” he said. “Today there isn’t the bankruptcy or crime that there was then, so the inferences about what, for instance, the African American or Jewish vote would do now are very different.”

A TUMULTUOUS TIME IN POLITICS

The year 1977 was a tumultuous and pivotal one in New York City politics.

It was best remembered for a steaming hot July blackout that was followed by looting and arson, the “Son of Sam” murders that had the city on edge, the rise of Rupert Murdoch’s transformation of the once-liberal New York Post into a sensationalistic rightwing Brit-style tabloid, and the first Yankees World Series win under owner George Steinbrenner.

The Bronx was burning — figuratively and literally — and the city was still simmering from Republican Gerald Ford initial denial of a bailout two years earlier.

The year 2013 is no less pivotal and tumultuous for the city’s politics.

The longtime incumbent mayor, Michael Bloomberg, who was not supposed to have a third term and got one after changing the term limits law with the help of the City Council and Speaker Christine Quinn, is about to depart after overseeing a prosperous period of growth and development — at least for those at the top — that had the business elites cheering.

As his term winds down, the mayor is warning against a return to “the bad old days,” trying to answer the rising indignation of a coalition of progressives, people of color and civil rights advocates who have called attention to what they say have been overly aggressive police tactics during Bloomberg’s tenure, such as stop-and-frisk and the surveillance of Muslims.

Even without the public debate over police tactics, there would be enough to shape the mayoral election: school reform and whether to continue mayoral control; rebuilding after Superstorm Sandy and responding to future disasters; and the erosion of the city’s middle class and the inequality gap that has widened over the past decade.

1977: A Stellar Field Of Candidates

In 1977, despite presiding over the city’s economic meltdown, Democratic Mayor Abraham Beame — who had the added liability of having been the comptroller when the city’s books were coming apart at the seams — ran for re-election.

In addition to Beame on the Democratic side, two liberal Manhattan Congress members jumped in — the relatively unknown Ed Koch and the famous Bella Abzug, who was coming off a razor-thin primary loss in 1976 to Daniel Patrick Moynihan for the Democratic nomination for US Senate.

Manhattan Borough President Percy Sutton also got in the race — the first black with a credible shot at becoming mayor — but so did Herman Badillo, a Congressman from the Bronx who had served as Bronx borough president and was the first Latino with a serious chance of winning the top spot in City Hall.

The longest-shot Democrat in 1977 was the former chair of the City Club of New York, Joel Harnett, who got on the primary ballot but would only go on to garner 1 percent of the vote.

And last but by no means least there was Mario Cuomo, Gov. Hugh Carey’s secretary of state, whose claim to fame then was mediating a dispute for Mayor John Lindsay over a public housing project planned for upper middle class Forest Hills.

It was Carey, one of the architects of the bailout for the city, who pushed Cuomo to run for mayor.

There was a Republican primary in 1977, too, with liberal state Sen. Roy Goodman of the Upper East Side, heir to the Ex-Lax fortune, squaring off with popular conservative radio talk show host Barry Farber.

Minor parties played a key role in 1977 as they very well may this year. Farber lost the Republican nomination to Goodman but had the Conservative Party line. And Cuomo won the Liberal Party line.

The conventional wisdom made Abzug, who died in 1998, the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination — based on her name recognition and strong showing for US Senate — and all the talk was about who in the crowded field would end up in the runoff with her after the initial primary vote.

Legendary journalist Doug Ireland, who is still writing today, managed Abzug’s Senate campaign but tried to discourage her from running for mayor and to instead try again for Congress, which he said he felt was more suited to her talents.

“I told her she wasn’t prepared and it would kill her chances for future office,” he said. “It Stassen-ized her,” he said, referring to Harold Stassen, a wartime Minnesota governor who ran for the Republican nomination nine times starting in 1948.

Abzug lost two subsequent U.S. House races on Manhattan’s East Side in 1978 and in Westchester in 1986. She also tried to get her old West Side seat back in 1992 when Ted Weiss died, but was beaten in a party convention by Jerry Nadler, who still holds the seat today.

A Violent Summer Shaped the 1977 Race

The 1977 race was very much a creature of external events, primarily the “Son of Sam” murders that had begun the previous year, with most victims young lovers in parked cars, and the arson and the chaotic aftermath of the July 13 blackout.

As Sewell Chan of the Times wrote on the 30th anniversary of the blackout: “1,000 fires were reported, 1,600 stores were damaged in looting and rioting and 3,700 people were arrested. Neighborhoods from East Harlem to Bushwick were devastated. The authorities later estimated that the total cost of the blackout exceeded $300 million.”

While these events by themselves might not have been enough to turn voters away from the more liberal candidates — particularly Abzug — the sensationalizing of these events by the New York Post under its new owner Mudoch were.

As Jack Doyle wrote in “Murdoch NY Deals: 1976-77,” the Post blackout headline was “24 HOURS OF TERROR.” He quotes Pete Hamill of the Daily News writing, “Something vaguely sickening is happening to that newspaper, and it is spreading through the city’s psychic life like a stain.”

When Murdoch decided to endorse Ed Koch, he was running at about 4 percent in the polls and was a virtual unknown citywide.

While Koch might have been the bachelor congressman from Greenwich Village — and was gaybaited by some in the Cuomo camp with “Vote for Cuomo, Not the Homo” posters in conservative precincts — Murdoch picked up on him as one of the only pro-death penalty Democrats who was willing to take up the banner of “law and order.”

“There are many reasons why Mr. Koch became the next mayor,” wrote Joyce Purnick, a reporter for the Post during that election, in a story a few years ago in the New York Times, “but I will always believe that the blackout separated him from the pack.”

Koch also hired legendary political consultant David Garth, who had guided John Lindsay to re-election in 1969 and went on to make Rudy Giuliani and Mike Bloomberg mayors. Garth's famous winning ad slogan for Koch was: "After eight years of charisma and four years of the clubhouse, why not try competence?” -- digs at both Lindsay and Beame respectively. In 2010, the NY Times wrote, "Just by signing on with Mr. Koch, Mr. Garth had conferred instant credibility on his fledgling campaign. 'Without him,' Mr. Koch said, 'I would never have been mayor.'"

Koch was also helped by an innovation taken for granted now — overnight polling. The Fix reported in an article titled "Ed Koch, polling pioneer" that polling data in 1977 had to be filtered through university computers, a process that took days. Garth hired Mark Penn, then still a college student, and his pal Doug Schoen, to do their polling, and Penn built his own computer to be able to process their polling data immediately — such as testing Koch's famous slogan for impact.

While Abzug is generally regarded as the most liberal candidate in the race — Ireland calls her “the first radical elected to Congress since Vito Marcantonio” (the East Harlem Communist elected as a Republican to the House in 1934), Badillo was also running to the left as “a champion of the poor,” Ireland said, “and then he went on to work for Koch and Giuliani who were declared enemies of the poor."

To help Koch, the Post focused its negative coverage on Abzug and Cuomo.

About two weeks before the primary, a Times/CBS News poll had Beame and Abzug at 17 percent each, Cuomo at 14 percent, Koch with 12 percent, Sutton with 9 percent, and Badillo with 7 percent. It was anybody’s ballgame.

When the votes were counted on Sept. 8, 1977, Koch led the pack with 19.81 percent followed by Cuomo, who had the Times’ endorsement, with 18.74 percent, putting them in the runoff triggered by no one getting 40 percent.

In third was Beame with 17.98 percent and early frontrunner Abzug finished out of the money with 16.56 percent. Sutton got 14.42 percent, Badillo 10.97 percent, and Harnett 1.53 percent.

Koch beat Cuomo in the runoff for the Democratic nod 55 to 45 percent, and Cuomo ran hard on the Liberal line in the general election losing 50 to 41 percent with Goodman the Republican and Farber the Conservative getting 4 percent each.

How did Koch win?

“One, I lost the black vote because they came and asked for a deal — a commitment for a black vice mayor,” Mario Cuomo told the Gotham Gazette. “I didn’t think that such a deal was a good idea. Badillo asked for same thing. I told him no. Meade Esposito, the Democratic boss in Brooklyn, asked for a deal and I said no. That was the Koch victory. Nothing illegal or terrible for them asking for it, I just wasn’t comfortable in giving it.”

Koch did make those deals to get elected, but they didn’t work out for him in the long run. He appointed Basil Paterson, a Harlem leader and father of former Gov. David Paterson, and Badillo as deputy mayors. But neither lasted much longer than a year — Paterson becoming secretary of state under Carey and Badillo quitting in a dispute with him over his failure to deliver for the South Bronx. The deals with boss Esposito, Queens boss Donald Manes and Bronx boss Stanley Friedman didn’t catch up with Koch until his third corruption-scarred term.

Role of Minor Parties

Barry Farber, still a conservative radio talk show host, said there was one big difference between 1977 and 2013: “There was a meaningful Liberal Party and a meaningful Conservative Party in ’77.”

Indeed, though Farber ended up with 4 percent in the general election in 1977, “there was a scenario for me to win on the Conservative line and doing an insurgency on the Republican line if the Democrats had lived up to their habits and nominated the leftmost candidate” — Abzug.

In Farber’s view, he was preempted by conservative Democrats.

“Ed Koch took the biggest broad jump in history and adopted the social welfare policy of Genghis Khan. He didn’t edge toward right. He came out as though there had never been a leftist,” he said. “Cuomo was considered the second most conservative and he finished second. Beame, the incumbent, was the third most conservative” and he finished third with Bella fourth.

The Liberal Party hasn’t enjoyed automatic ballot status since Andrew Cuomo had their line for governor in 2002 and then refused to campaign and opposed the Democratic nominee Carl McCall, having already dropped out of the Democratic primary.

But this year, the Liberals, which were the key to Rudy Giuliani’s two mayoral wins, have given their line to grocery store chain billionaire John Catsimatidis who wants to be the next Bloomberg.

The Working Families Party, which supplanted the Liberals, has yet to designate a candidate and may be unable to settle on one in the crowded primary given their complex, consensus-building nomination process.

The Independence Party, which gave Bloomberg the minor party help he needed to become mayor three times, has designated former Bronx Borough President Adolfo Carrion as their nominee.

Carrion and Catsimatidis along with former Giuliani Deptuy Mayor and Metropolitan Transportation Authority Chairman Joe Lhota and homeless advocate George McDonald are running for the Republican nomination with Lhota the early favorite — though no poll has come out since his labeling of Port Authority police as “mall cops” got a lot of pushback from his base and he had to apologize.

The Conservative Party, long led by Mike Long, has not yet made a pick, but will before the September primary.

Carrion doesn’t want his nomination, but the others in the Republican primary do and Long will pick one of them (despite some of their socially liberal positions) because he fears the leading Democrats “would really take the city backwards a lot of years,” he told Crain’s. 

2013 a Different Time

What has changed since 1977? To Bill Lynch, it is the voters who have changed.

“The difference is the voters have changed drastically,” said Bill Lynch, a Harlem-based political consultant who managed David Dinkins’ mayoral campaigns and served as his deputy mayor. People of color — once called “minorities” — have became the majority.

But the city has also become what Bloomberg calls “a luxury product,” which in recent years has attracted the people of means who fled urban America in the 1970s but have returned to New York City en masse, driving real estate to stratospheric levels while the market still languishes in most parts of the country.

“One lesson of 1977,” said Sherrill, “is that once you have a certain number of candidates, it is impossible to go over 40 percent, and it is hard to predict who will be the top two. The other lesson given who ended up in the runoff is never to underestimate anybody. There were some people who predicted Koch-Abzug, but nobody predicted Koch-Cuomo.”

This year, the Democratic field is as crowded as it was in 1977 and gaming out who will be the top two in the expected runoff following September’s primary is anybody’s guess. Three seem to be vying for most liberal — Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, Comptroller John Liu, and former City Council Member Sal Albanese — while former Comptroller and 2009 Democratic candidate Bill Thompson has moved toward the center.

Quinn is to Thompson’s right, though even she is tacking left with proposals to oversee the police department more closely after she agreed to back a bill that would impose an independent monitor over the NYPD, and finally giving in on a paid sick leave bill — albeit in a much watered-down version.

If former Congressman Anthony Weiner jumps in — and he comes in second to Quinn in recent polls — he would fit somewhere between the left candidates and Thompson.

Sherrill said that for all the help Koch got from the Post, the election came down to a message that resonated with voters. And, so far, he said he had not heard a message from any of the 2013 candidates that resonates.

“You go to the boroughs outside Manhattan and you hear about an unresponsive government that took care of the affluent on Wall Street and did not help them,” Sherrill said. “I think a candidate who makes an appeal to frustrated working-class people that he or she will stand up for against the relatively well off who saw a much more rapid recovery can do very well in the parts of the city that were devastated and haven’t bounced back. With the rising inequality, there is a strong sense that no one is looking out for ‘people like me.’ I would not be surprised to hear Anthony Weiner take that up. I would not be surprised if the election turned on personality and style more than the issues. I think an angry candidate can do very well, I’m afraid.”

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.

UPDATE: This version is updated with more information on Koch's 1977 campaign.

Scandal! Confessions! Weiner! An Elections Roundup


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NEW YORK — City Council Speaker and Democratic mayoral frontrunner Christine Quinn confessed to her struggles with bulimia and alcoholism. Ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner appeared to hire a campaign manager for his own bid to be the next mayor. And the latest embarrassment to public integrity in Albany leached into one City Council race.

That and much more — from campaign finance filings to a cameo appearance of former Sen. Al D'Amato — made this week a busy one in the race for City Hall.

VITO LOPEZ — FROM THE ASSEMBLY TO CITY HALL?

Assemblyman Vito Lopez, facing mounting calls to leave office after being accused of sexually harassing several members of his staff, said earlier today that he will leave his seat in Albany at the end of the legislative session in June to focus on his bid for the 34th City Council District.

"Because the citizens of my district voted me back into office last November by an overwhelming majority, I feel obligated to serve out this session of the Assembly," he said in his statement.

But Lopez may be forced to focus on the Council race sooner than that: Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who has faced criticism over his handling of the Lopez matter, said he will move to expel the aging politician from the chamber. And Gov. Andrew Cuomo said that Lopez “should not spend another day in office.” 

A special prosecutor said Wednesday that he had found no reason to bring criminal charges against Lopez — at least in Brooklyn — for his unwanted advances on female staff on various occasions.

Lopez, in his statement announcing his resignation, said he was "gratified" by the special prosecutor's decision and added that he had maintained his innocence "throughout this matter" and believed no criminal investigation was warranted.

But on the same day the prosecutor announced his decision, the state's Legislative Ethics Committee released a Joint Commission on Public Ethics report on the sexual harassment complaints brought against Lopez by staffers.

In the days since JCOPE released its report, politicians have called for his resignation, including Frank Seddio, who replaced Lopez as chairman of the Brooklyn Democratic Party.

In a statement late today, Seddio also said Lopez should reconsider running for Council.

"He best serves the Bushwick and Ridgewood neighborhoods he's worked so hard to build up by stepping back from political life completely," Seddio said. "He should not let personal ambition stand in the way of their continued progress."

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn also found the idea of Lopez running for Council distasteful, telling reporters just as much yesterday.

“Because to allow Vito Lopez, after what he did in the state capital, to be allowed into this building to potentially in the name of representing New Yorkers conduct himself in such a horrible way would be an outrage," Quinn said.

That won't stop Lopez from trying, who wrote that the decision on who represents the 34th District, covering the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Bushwick and Williamsburg, should be left to the voters.

"I expect to run a vigorous campaign on the issues facing the citizens of my community and hope to continue to serve them as a member of the City Council," he wrote.

A BIG LABOR FORUM

Without saying a word, Comptroller John Liu was met with raucous applause and scattered boos at a mayoral forum organized by the city's largest public employee union last night.

Despite being one of three candidates to arrive late at the District Council 37 mayoral forum yesterday, Liu cued up the audience for even louder cheers when he touched on stop-and-frisk and education reform. DC 37 represents a variety of public sector employees.

While the embattled comptroller didn't have to put much effort to rile up the more than 300 attendees, he sealed the deal when he invoked the federal investigation into his campaign's fundraising tactics.

"Look, they can throw everything and the kitchen sink at me," Liu said as the audience erupted one last time, repeating a line he's used often — before adding: "And I'll be ready for the stove."

Liu was one of five Democratic candidates to show up at the forum, albeit late. Public Advocate Bill and former Comptroller Bill Thompson eventually joined fellow Democrats Erick Salgado and Sal Albanese.

Made up of mostly DC 37 members, the audience was anything but shy as it pushed back against anything that displeased it, including Albanese's defense of mayoral control of schools.

Albanese, a former school teacher and Council member, also tried to lob his usual criticism about how his fellow candidates receive donations from real estate developers. The line was tepidly received by the audience, which reacted much more strongly to de Blasio's defense of public workers and his unabashed attacks on the mayoral race's absent frontrunner.

Council Speaker Christine Quinn was slated to attend the forum yesterday, but canceled at the last minute due to other commitments. Her absence irked the union members, who booed and bristled at the mention of her name. De Blasio added fuel to the flame when he revived his attack on Quinn for her support of 2008's term limit extension.

De Blasio continued to link Quinn to Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who de Blasio also accused of "union busting with a velvet glove," and compared to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.

Whenever DC 37 decides to endorse a mayoral candidate, its executive board will have to mull over three candidates that it already supported in 2009: Bill Thompson's unsuccessful mayoral bid, as well as Liu and de Blasio for their respective offices.

DC 37 might be closer to picking a candidate after last night, but de Blasio doesn’t have to wait any longer for some support from big labor. Late today, the New York Times reported that he picked up the endorsement from SEIU 1199, city’s largest healthcare union.

SHOW US THE MONEY

While the rest of candidates wait for big-ticket union endorsements, they continued to rake in donations as the September primaries get closer.

DNAinfo reported on Tuesday that Thompson led the pack in fundraising totals with $600,000 earned between March 12 and May 11. Fellow Democrat Quinn came in close with $510,000 in the same period, but was out-raised by Republican candidate Joe Lhota's $558,000 in donations.

Both de Blasio and Liu raised less than half of what Thompson reportedly brought in: the public advocate reportedly raised $240,000, and Liu with $104,231.

Meanwhile, rumored mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner reported no campaign contributions. Even so, the former Congressman has more than $4 million on hand and other signs are beginning to point to his official candidacy for mayor.

WILL HE OR WON'T HE?

Politico reported this week that Weiner was bringing in campaign manager Danny Kedem to help revive his political brand.

Kedem previously worked on the failed campaign to unseat Republican Rep. Michael Grimm from his Staten Island congressional seat, and as a field organizer for Hillary Clinton in 2008.

Kedem couldn't be reached to confirm.

Weiner, who also allegedly hired an unnamed press secretary, was most recently spotted near his childhood home in Park Slope with his wife and a film crew, supposedly making what's assumed to be a campaign video.

A CAMEO APPEARANCE

Republican Senator Al D’Amato made a surprise appearance in the mayoral race when he mocked Quinn after confessed to The New York Times that she previously suffered from alcoholism and an eating disorder.

D’Amato took to NY1’s Road to City Hall and called Quinn a "political hack" for trying to "soften her image."

Quinn’s campaign responded with a force that it hadn’t previously shown, sending out an email yesterday that directly linked D’Amato’s comments to Thompson’s campaign.

The former comptroller tried to build some distance between him and D’Amato’s comments, calling Quinn’s revelation "touching" and "inspiring."

Seemingly unconvinced, the Quinn campaign sent out an email to supproters lambasting Thompson for his alliance with D’Amato, who has been one of his strongest allies.

"The last thing Democrats are looking for in a mayor of New York is someone who is 'proud' to have Al D’Amato’s support," the email said.

That same afternoon, Thompson’s campaign emailed its supporters to launch Women for Thompson with a letter signed by State Board of Regents Chancellor Merryl Tisch and former Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum.

"This election is about real leadership on the issues women — and all New Yorkers — care about," the women wrote letter said. "For us, the choice is simple. Bill Thompson is the only candidate with the experience and temperament to get things done."



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