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Recent Feature Stories:
The Nod of the Bosses... Scramble for the City Council... Basic Training for Council Recruits... How They Stack up on Term Limit... Dynasties... The Speech that Saved Term Limits...


What is Searchlight on Campaign 2001?
Searchlight on Campaign 2001 is a guide to the political races in what many are calling New York City's most significant campaign season in modern history.

What is so significant about it?
For the first time in memory, most political offices in the city will be wide open to people who have neither money nor connections.

Why will the races be so open?
There are two reasons. This year, a new law goes into effect that limits the terms of New York City elected officials, forcing the mass retirement of most incumbents in the city - including the mayor, the comptroller, the public advocate, four of the five borough presidents, and 36 of the 51 members of the City Council. At the same time, a new campaign finance law kicks in, which allows any candidate who agrees to certain restrictions to collect four dollars of matching funds for every dollar they raise.

What does this have to do with this site?
As a public service, Searchlight on Campaign 2001 has a separate page for each race, including all the races for City Council, that not only sorts out the candidates -- many of them new and unfamiliar -- but also offers an opportunity to learn about the issues, and the districts themselves.

Who is behind Searchlight on Campaign 2001?
Searchlight on Campaign 2001 is a project of Gotham Gazette, a non-profit, non-partisan, non-ideological (but non-boring) web site about New York City news, policy and politics published by Citizens Union Foundation, part of the oldest and largest good-government group in the city (founded in 1897).

What's wrong with the way the regular press covers the races?
That is for you to decide. And one of our regular features, Campaign Trail, helps you to decide. Campaign Trail provides succinct summaries and links to campaign articles in the commercial press.

Who are we?


Still Up For Grabs (11/1/01)
Do not tell Martin Golden or Joanne Seminara that the campaign for City Council ended on primary day. They are still campaigning and campaigning hard to represent their Brooklyn district. And they are not alone. While most races for City Council were in effect decided on September 25, in several districts across the city the two party system is alive, and voters will have a real choice on November 6. A look at the most competitive contests.

The Right Side of the Ballot (10/28/01)
Along with mayor, public advocate and other offices, the ballot that New Yorkers will confront on November 6 lists five proposals to change the New York City Charter, the city's governing document. Critics questions why the mayor is trying to alter the charter once again. But some argue that the proposals call for needed changes children's services, school safety, human rights, public health, and the agencies to fight organized crime and terrorism.

Campaign 2001: The Promise and the Problems (10/19/01)
Many thought Campaign 2001 would bring a new era in city politics. Term-limits and campaign finance reform promised more competitive races, greater diversity in candidates, and a better opportunity for those without money, political connections, or a political family name. Others warned that the Board of Elections would not be able to handle all of the candidates and voters and that the city might have "chaos." As the election day approaches, what became of the promise, and the problems, that were expected? And how did the events of September 11 -- the day that was supposed to be the primary day -- alter the expectations of the city's new government?

Q and A About The Election (9/21/01)

Guide For The Last Minute Voter (9/3/01)
Gotham Gazette offers a Guide For the Last Minute Voter, a step by step tour to discover who is running; what they have to say about the issues (if anything); what endorsements they have gotten; what has been happening during the campaign season (who has charged what, who has been kicked off the ballot or accused of getting kickbacks). Finally, we show you how to find your polling place, what to do if things go wrong -- and how to complain afterwards.

WANTED: $10. REWARD: $30,000 (8/29/01)
Just when they thought they had survived Board of Elections hearings and the bizarre system of legal challenges to get on the ballot, some of the candidates are facing a new set of rules and challenges--from the Campaign Finance Board.

The Party's Not Over (8/15/01)
This month, a third of the candidates for City Council in Queens were kicked off the ballot. Three-quarters of all candidates were denied matching public funds. Most of the candidates who survived shared one thing; they had the backing of a county Democratic organization - a party machine. Indeed, the machines provided the muscle behind the challenges that kicked the non-machine candidates off the ballot. Clearly, the political party still has power. Too much power, say Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg and others who advocate a solution -- non-partisan elections. A look at the partisan debate over the removal of political parties from local politics.

Campaign Dropouts (8/5/01)
Where'd your favorite candidate go? One minute she's wooing you with promises, and the next she's dropped out and endorsing someone else. A look at the party machines, neophyte mistakes and medical excuses that have led to the candidate dropouts.

Campaign Tail: Yehuda's Subway Strategy (7/27/01)
We tail 19-year-old Yehuda Katz as he campaigns for a seat in the City Council, not so much running as riding - for 24 hours continuously on the D and the Q trains. His high school teacher had come up with this idea.

Campaign Talk: What If They Gave An Election That The Press Covered? (7/27/01)
Former mayoral candidate Ruth Messinger explains why she thinks that this year's mayoral campaign is NOT boring - that the reason some New Yorkers think it so is not the fault of the candidates, but the press.

Pseudo-Incumbents and the Power of Incumbency (7/17/01)
If term limits has gotten rid of most incumbents, it has not gotten rid of the power of incumbency. This campaign season, Lenore Chester points out, has seen the emergence of a new breed of incumbents -- pseudo-incumbents.

Baby Candidates (6/19/01)
Supporters of the new term limits law hoped that it would bring in some fresh faces in the City Council. Nobody could have known how fresh they would be. After voters elected the youngest councilman in City history last February, the field of candidates includes more than a half dozen under 25, and even a teenager or two.

The Latest Third Party (6/12/01)
New York is one of the few places in the nation where third parties have had a consistent impact, both in the past, and potentially during the present campaign as well. A look at the youngest and the fastest growing, the Working Families Party - their history, their current roster of endorsements, their future.

The Nod of the Bosses (5/22/01)
This week, the Queens machine gave its formal endorsements for mayor, borough president, public advocate, comptroller and members of the City Council - all in two minutes, thirty seconds. What lasting impact will these endorsements have on the races? What about the choices from the Bronx and Brooklyn machines; what about the political catfight in Staten Island? Do any of the machines' machinations mean anything anymore, especially when term limits were supposed to present a level playing field? Bob Liff says yes. Liff looks behind the endorsements -- not just by the party bosses, but by unions, prominent pastors and local district party leaders - explaining why they were made and what will happen now.

The Speech That Saved Term Limits (3/16/01)

Runoffs (3/16/01)
This campaign season may wind up having the closest elections in New York City history. For those candidates running for borough president and for seats in the City Council, whoever wins, wins, no matter how few votes they get. But, since 1972, the law has required a runoff election in New York City for mayor, comptroller and public advocate if no candidate wins at least 40 percent of the vote. Lenore Chester looks at the 30-year history of NYC runoff elections, which has seemed at times less about the noble goal of effective governance, and more about race, or making sure a Democrat got elected.

Dynasties (3/05/01)
At least a half dozen candidates for City Council are the sons or daughters of current Council members. Are they born politicians, groomed from an early age to lead (or at least to change street names)? Or are they beneficiaries of a kind of nepotism, in which their qualifications are irrelevant? Or, as critics have suggested, is there a third and nefarious explanation: Is this just a way to get around term limits?

How They Stack Up on Term Limits (2/24/01)
In a survey, we asked the members of the City Council two questions:
1. "Do you support Intro. 880 that would repeal term limits?"
2. To the 35 members who can not run again, "If term limits is repealed, would you seek reelection?"

20 SAID "NO"

21 SAID "NO"

Basic Training for Council Recruits (2/12/01)
Architects and lawyers long have had their own schools. So has nearly everyone involved in the day to day operations of the city (police officers, firefighters, bus drivers), with a notable exception--politicians. Now there are training programs for them too. We report on one such course that is teaching the basics of being a City Councilmember -- everything from what to expect on the first day in office to when the best time is to raise money -- and offer edited transcripts of lectures from three of the professors, Councilmembers Thomas Ognibene and Ronnie Eldridge and the father of the City Charter, Eric Lane on the importance of his baby

Scramble for the City Council (1/22/01)
This year, term-limits will oust 35 of the 51 City Councilmembers from office and make way for hundreds of new political candidates. Community activists, candidates from new immigrant groups, children of politicians, staff members in government and everyday citizens are all making their best run for public office. Never before have the doors to City Council been this wide open. The result will be a historic election that will be both fascinating and confusing. Here is a first look at what to watch for in the City Council races.


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Find what city council district you are in -- and learn more about what's going on there, and who's running.

What is this?
Gotham Gazette's Searchlight on Campaign 2001 offers a comprehensive look at what is being called New York City's most significant campaign season in modern history. (See the left-hand column for an explanation).

Districts of the Week

District 1 -- Lower Manhattan
Whoever wins the election in district 1 will represent immigrant Chinese garment workers, as well as Wall Street traders living in Battery Park City. There are several candidates hoping to be the council's firsts -- the first Asian-American man, the first Asian-American woman, the first gay Rhodes Scholar, the first dot-com guru -- running against some politically well connected opponents. Endorsements and fundraising will play a big role in this race. But voter turnout could be the main determinant of who will next represent district 1 on the council. The key question is how many voters from each community will come out on Election Day.

District 7 -- Washington Heights, Manhattan
The northern tip of Manhattan has become one of the most popular places for new immigrants to call home. The northern tip of Manhattan is a place that today's new immigrants call home. The majority have come from the Dominican Republic, but also from countries in South America, Eastern Europe, and Asia. But it is not just new immigrants that are moving in. Students, artists, and other Manhattanites looking for less expensive rents and larger apartments have also moved north. Ten Democratic candidates are competing for the 15,000 voters expected on primary day. The winner who emerges from a crowded field of candidates will have to balance the needs of the newcomers with those who have lived there for years.

District 16 -- Highbridge, Bronx
The neighborhoods of district 16 are the city's poorest, with the highest rate of unemployment and the lowest median household income. But those who live there also point out that much is positive and stable about the area, thanks in large part to local organizations, not-for-profit agencies, and houses of worship that help hold the neighborhoods together. Each candidate for City Council believes that through his or her connections to churches and local organizations, they can help empower the community toward a better life. Helen Foster, the current council member daughter, will face Michael Benjamin, who has worked as an aide to several government officials and Anthony Curry, a Bronx neighborhood activist.

District 20 -- Northeast Flushing, Queens
This year district 20 may elect the first Asian-American ever to the City Council to an area which now has the second highest number of immigrants from Korea and Taiwan in the city. There are three Asian candidates in the Democratic race who have each drawn big endorsements. Council Speaker Peter Vallone endorsed Terence Park, City Comptroller Alan Hevesi endorsed John Liu, and the New York Times recently endorsed Ethel Chen The campaign has also drawn national and international press coverage

District 25 -- Jackson Heights, Queens
Thirty-seventh Avenue in Jackson Heights, Queens is one of the most diverse streets in the world. Little India quickly blends into Little Colombia, with vendors selling Latin American food to Colombians, Peruvians, Ecuadorians, Mexicans, and Uruguayans. And each summer, the Queens Pride Parade fills the same street with rainbow banners. So it is no surprise that this election year the district produced a diverse field of candidates. A number of them, however, found out that getting on the ballot is not an easy task, especially when the Queens Democratic organization sends teams of lawyers to challenge petitions. But five Democratic candidates survived and will face off on September 11.

District 31 -- South East Queens
When a heavy rain hits southeast Queens, many residents in neighborhoods like Springfield Gardens, Laurelton and Rosedale head to the basement with a bucket in hand. And it has been that way for the last 50 years. In the rush to build housing in the area after World War II, developers overlooked the need for storm drains in hopes that the city would eventually build a city-wide sewer system. The plan never materialized and the area has experienced "100-year rains" three times in the last decade. The eight Democrats -- all with little experience overseeing massive infrastructure projects--will try to convince voters that they can finally solve the flooding problems.

District 35 -- Central Brooklyn
The residents in council district 35 have some of the highest incomes in Brooklyn and some of the lowest. They can play in a famous park and a beautiful botanical garden, and live in the city's most crumbling public housing. They can attend one of the four institutions of higher learning in the district, and the worst-scoring high schools in the city. Such juxtapositions are a way of life for a district that includes the Brooklyn Academy of Music, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Brooklyn Botanical Gardens; mid dle-class African-American communities near Prospect Park; immigrant communities from Haiti, Sierra Leon, Nigeria, and Trinidad, and in Crown Heights, a mix of Hasidic Jews and African-Americans. Seven Democratic candidates are campaigning in hopes that they can bring some kind of unity, and attention, to the area. Their backgrounds are as diverse as the neighborhoods themselves.

District 39 -- Park Slope/Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn
The candidates in district 39 include a chief of staff for an Assemblywoman, the husband of a member of U.S. Congress, a lawyer for the Legal Aid Society, an attorney and president of the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats, Senator Hillary Clinton's campaign manager, the district manager of Community Board 6, and a labor organizer. This is the race to watch this year. The group of high-profile Democrats have raised a lot of money, almost $1.4 million combined.

District 45 -- East Flatbush
In no place in the city are the effects of campaign finance reform and term limits being felt more than in East Flatbush. The seven Democratic candidates seeking to represent this largely West Indian district come from a number of Caribbean nations. Many have been working on politicians' staffs and serving with community groups, clearly hoping someday to win their own elected office. Term limits has presented them with that opportunity, and they want to make the most of it. But this race that usually draws only about 8,000 voters could be decided by just a few votes. The candidates are attempting to come up with anything that will separate them from the pack.

District 49 -- North Shore, Staten Island
Staten Island has always been somewhat of a suburban stepchild to New York City. When a 1998 survey asked New Yorkers why they go to Staten Island, the top two responses were ''visiting friends and relatives" and ''passing through.'' But in many ways, the north shore has more in common with areas of Manhattan and Brooklyn than with the rest of the Staten Island. The top priority for all the candidates -- Jon Del Giorno, an administrative manager for the Board of Elections, Mike McMahon, an attorney and counsel to current Councilmember Jerome O'Donovan, and Debi Rose, an administrator at the College of Staten Island and the first African-American candidate in Staten Island politics -- is to make sure that the island becomes more than just a turn-around-point for the over one million tourists who ride the free ferry from Manhattan each year.

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Board of Elections
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New York, NY

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Poll Worker Applications

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Links You Can Use

Government sites
NYC Campaign Finance Bd.
NYC Board of Elections
NYC Voter Assistance Comm.
NY City Council
Federal Election Comm.

Local non-partisan sites
NY League of Women Voters
Common Cause New York

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

NAACP Voter Empowerment
Vote Smart


Political consultants
Amer. Assc. of Pol. Consultants

Prime New York

Gotham Gazette
The Empire Page
Campaigns and Elections
Legislative Gazette

Political columnists
Andrea Bernstein
Joe Conason
Mario Cuomo (radio)
Rudy Giuliani (radio)
Clyde Haberman
Nat Hentoff

Joseph Mercurio
Joyce Purnick
John Tierney
Michael Tomasky

Political parties
Right to Life
Working Families
Marijuana Reform
Natural Law Party
Taxpayers Party

Political clubs and groups
Blueprint Camp. Finance Reform
Central Queens Greens
The Jefferson Democratic Club of Flushing
NY Young Republican Club
Stonewall Democratic Club
Village Independent Dems.

Abbreviations for Party Affiliation

American Dream Party (AMD)
Better Schools Party (BES)
Communist (Com)
Conservative (Con)
Constitution (CST)
Democratic (Dem)
Friends United Party (FUN)
Fusion Party (FUS)
Green (Gre)
Harmony Party (HAR)
Independence (Ind)
Liberal (Lib)
Libertarian (LBT)
Marijuana Reform Party (POT)
Natural Law Party (NLP)
Party of Ethics and Traditions (PET)
Reform Party (Ref)
Republican (Rep)
Right to Life (RTL)
School Choice Party (Sch)
Socialist Workers Party (SWP)
Working Families (Wor)

2001 Election Calendar

June 1 -- Deadline for candidates to join the Campaign Finance program, qualifying for the four-to-one match of contributions.
June 5 - First day for candidates from the eight major parties (Democratic, Republican, Indpendence, Conservative, Liberal, Green, Working Families, and Right to Life) to circulate petitions. Candidates running for City Council must collect the signatures of at least 900 people living in the district for which they are running in order to appear on the Primary ballot. Candidates not running under these eight major parties do not appear on the Primary ballot and have a separate set of deadlines.
July 12 - Deadline for major party candidates to file petitions.
July 10 - First day for unaffiliated candidates to circulate petitions, in order to appear on the ballot in the General Election. They must collect the number of signatures equal to five percent of the total enrolled in that party.
August 7 - Board of Elections announces candidates appearing on the Primary ballot.
August 17 - Last day for non-absentee voters to register to vote in the Primary Election.
August 21 - Deadline for non-major party candidates to file petitions to be included on the General Election ballot.
September 4 - Last day to postmark application for absentee voting in the Primary
September 10 - Last day to personally deliver application for absentee voting in the Primary Last day to postmark absentee ballot for Primary
September 11 - Primary election; Polls open at 6:00a.m. and close at 9:00p.m.; Absentee ballots must be hand-delivered by 9:00 p.m.
September 25 - Runoff Primary election for Mayor, Comptroller and Public Advocate, if needed
October 12 - Last day to for non-absentee voters to register to vote in the General Election
October 30 - Last day to postmark application for absentee voting in the General Election
November 5 - Last day to hand-deliver an application for absentee voting, or to postmark an absentee ballot for the General Election.
November 6 - General Election; polls open at 6:00a.m. and close at 9:00p.m. in NYC; Absentee ballots must be hand-delivered by 9:00 p.m.

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