Campaign 2001 Feature

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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?


Guide For the Last Minute Voter

by Mark Berkey-Gerard and David Schwartz

Mary Huran, a 37-year-old art therapist and registered Democrat, can name the four major candidates running for mayor, regularly reads the newspaper, and has even watched a mayoral debate. But she is still not sure for whom she will vote on September 11th, the day of the primary.

As for who will be on the rest of the ballot, forget about it.

When asked who she might vote for as borough president, Huran answered, "Golden, right?" She was surprised to hear that current Brooklyn Borough President Howard Golden cannot run again, and, when told the names of the candidates running for his seat, she did not recognize any of them.

She has, however, met two of the candidates running for City Council in her neighborhood in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn --Sandy Aboulafia and "some little guy with white hair" -- but has not decided which she would vote for. Being the conscientious voter, Haran plans to sit down soon, read up on the races, and, she hopes, finally make up her mind.

For the last minute voter -- in other words, New Yorkers who have not been paying enough attention even to tell you why this year has been called a historic election -- let us go step by step.

Why Is There So Much Campaign Stuff Around?

For the first time, most elected officials are being kicked out of office on December 31st, because of a new law that limits the terms of politicians. This is 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 35 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 from the city.

These two things mean that there are some 300 candidates -- more than ever before -- vying for dozens of open seats. Many of them have a lot of money to spend on posters, television ads, web sites, and palm cards. And they want your vote.

Who Is Running?

In addition to the hundreds of community board members, school board members, and community activists running for office this year, the list of candidates also includes a TV journalist, a 19-year-old, a billionaire media mogul, a former NBA basketball player, Hillary Clinton's former campaign manager, a famous salsa singer, and a character from Seinfeld. In other words, there are a lot of people with varying degrees of political and life experience.

There are several ways to find out who will be on your ballot.

On Gotham Gazette: For the three city-wide races and the races for borough president, go to Searchlight on Campaign 2001, and look for the links on the upper left-hand side. For the City Council races, our "What's My District" feature allows you learn about your district even if you do not know what number it is. Type in your street address and zip code in the upper right hand corner, and you will be taken to a page that talks about the candidates in your district, the issues, and the neighborhood itself..

If you already know what district you live in, you can scroll down a list on the left-hand side of this page.

The city's official voter guide online lets you either type in your address or select your neighborhood from a map of your borough. All registered voters should also receive a print edition of this voter guide in the mail. Here you will be able to see all the races that will be appearing on your particular ballot.

Despite the turnover, voters may recognize some familiar names when you go to the polls this fall. Many elected officials are running for higher (and in a few cases lower) office. There are also over a dozen of sons, daughters, wives, husbands, brothers, sisters and cousins of New York politicians running for office, hoping that people will recognize their names and think they too would be good politicians; or they are hoping most voters will not notice and just flip a switch thinking they are electing the same person they always have.

What Are The Candidates Saying?

"I don't think the candidates can be separated on the issues," Vaughan Toney, a City Council candidate in East Flatbush said of his seven opponents. "It's not like anyone is saying he's for less funding for education. It will be who will best represent them."

In New York City, where most voters and elected officials are Democrats, sometimes it can be hard to tell the candidates apart. The best thing is to see them in person talking about issues with other candidates.

While many of the televised candidate debates have already passed, there will still be opportunities to see some debates before the November general election. The Campaign Finance Board has a schedule online. Transcripts of several debates and community forums can also be found in newspapers and on Gotham Gazette, where you can read, among others, the August 28 mayoral debate; the August 21 mayoral debate; the stump speeches of many of the candidates for public advocate and the two candidates for comptroller; as well as a series of interviews with the candidates for Staten Island borough president, and a forum of the candidates for Queens borough president.

WNYC, the city's public radio station, has audio archives of candidate interviews and debates that you can listen to on the Internet for free. In addition, several of the metropolitan newspapers are offering sections on their web sites specifically focused on the local elections. A few independent web sites are also involved, with, for example, inviting candidates to participate in its online forum by writing their positions on the issues, though few candidates have done so. Some candidates have posted their positions on issues on their own campaign web sites. (Gotham Gazette's Searchlight on Campaign 2001 includes links to these web sites from the list of candidates in each race.).

For local races, it is best to check with neighborhood papers, community organizations, and even the candidates themselves to find out if there are places where you can see and hear what the candidates have to say. (Some of these articles are available, at least in summary, on our Campaign Trails; [see next section])

There are also a host of non-profit organizations and advocacy groups that publish the candidates' responses to the issues they care about. There are guides, both in print and online, to what the candidates say about AIDS, fiscal issues, housing, children's issues, and the environment, to give just a few examples.

To learn more about these issues and more, look at Gotham Gazette's NYC Issues 2001 for a list of issues you might care about. Scroll down the page, and look on the left-hand side for a list of issue topics.

In the days leading up to the election, many candidates will be making phone calls or shaking hands at subway stations, and the best way to find out what a person plans to do in office is to ask them or call up their campaign office.

When most candidates are asked about their top concern, most reply, "education." Ask them what they specifically plan to do, and more importantly, how they will find the money to do it.

How Do I Catch Up With What Has Been Happening?

Why is Rudy Giuliani exchanging insults and accusations with Alan Hevesi as if the current mayor were running for re-election? Why do both candidates running for comptroller blame each other for the School Construction Authority's being $2.8 billion over budget? Have the candidates already broken their campaign promises or flipped their position on the issues?

You can catch up with all of the campaign news quickly with Gotham Gazette's Campaign Trail that has archived stories from the New York Times, Daily News, Newsday, New York Post, Crain's, Village Voice, and the New York Observer, as well as various community newspapers and cable stations. You can see how the campaign has progressed, how and when the major issues first entered the campaign debate, and compare the coverage of one newspaper to another as you try to decide how to vote.

Who Has Endorsed These Candidates, And Should It Make A Difference?

Does it matter that the New York Times has endorsed Mark Green for mayor, while the Daily News and New York Post have endorsed Peter Vallone? Does a photo of Al Sharpton and Fernando Ferrer smiling and patting each other on the back influence voters? Will the endorsement of the United Federation of Teachers give Alan Hevesi an advantage?

The answer is yes, in part.

Many voters look to endorsements to help them make their decisions. And having unions, religious leaders, advocacy groups, civic groups, and prominent New Yorkers listed on brochures or standing up at press conferences is an essential part of any campaign.

Endorsements are especially coveted in an election year filled with unknown candidates.

The nod of the local political organizations and the party bosses also leads to more power and money for a campaign. The candidates who have the backing of the political organizations have help in fundraising, an army of people who will make last minute phone calls to "get out the vote," and access to the lawyers to knock other candidates off the ballot.

Candidates without their party's backing or big endorsements, on the other hand, are hoping voters will rely on their own judgement when deciding how to vote.

How And Where Do I Vote?

You can only vote in the primary if you are registered with a political party. The last day to register for the September primary has passed, but you can still register for the general election and any runoff elections should they be necessary, if you do so by August 31. Download a registration form and mail or deliver it to the Board of Elections. To find out if you are registered to vote with a party, you can try out an Internet site where you type in your name and date of birth and it gives you Board of Election information. Warning: The information comes from the Board of Elections, and is only as accurate as the Board of Elections can make it, which, if the past is any guide, is not very.

Once you are registered to vote, you must find your polling place. Registered voters should get a bright yellow card in the mail with the address of their polling place. You can also call the Board of Elections at 212-VOTE-NYC (9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday to Friday to get a real person; an automated system operates 24 hours a day), or e-mail them at [email protected] with your complete address.

Will The Results Be A Florida-Style Mess?

No one knows for sure what will happen, but based on the large field of candidates in many races, low voter turnout, and the city's outdated voting machines, New York may unseat Florida as the capital of election debacles.

Last year, the recount for the election of an Upper East Side State Senate seat which was decided by a few hundred votes, actually lasted longer than the presidential recount. And in the presidential election race in New York, the city had a higher percentage of uncounted, unmarked, and discarded ballots than in Florida (although few noticed because the race between Gore and Bush here was not close).

If you go to vote on September 11th and you are told that you are not on the Board of Elections roll (and you think you are in the correct polling place), request an "affidavit ballot," which is a paper ballot.

The city has taken some measures to prevent problems this year. They recently hired a private company from New Jersey to bring in more voting machines and repair the broken ones. If the races are too close to call or if there are problems deciphering the votes, the ballots will have to be counted by hand. That could take weeks. The Board of Elections is preparing guidelines to determine what exactly counts as a vote in order to avoid the "hanging chad" type debate in Florida. The city is also spending a record amount of money ($2 million more than usual for each election day) on better pay for election day workers. The hope is that better qualified workers will be more helpful to voters and attract enough workers. To be part of the solution (or to just participate in the chaos), you still can sign up to be a poll worker and earn as much as $660 for three days' work (the primary election, a possible runoff, and the general election). To be a poll worker, download the application and mail it to the Board of Elections. Also, the mayor has said that the department of emergency services will be available to rush repairmen to broken voting machines in police cars with their sirens blaring.

If you have problems at your polling site on Election Day, call the New York Public Interest Research Group Voter Help Line 212-822-0282 to register your complaint.

If you want to complain about your polling place on the week of the election, visit Gotham Gazette's Election "Venting" Bulletin Board, where you can post your experience and read about other voters' experiences.

My Street Address:

My ZIP Code:

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.

Register To Vote or Be A Poll Worker

Voter Registration Forms
After printing and filling out the voter registration form, please send them by mail to:

Board of Elections
32 Broadway, 7th Floor
New York, NY

You will need Acrobat Reader to view these forms.

Poll Worker Applications

After completing the forms, please send them to the address on the form.

You will need Acrobat Reader to view these forms.

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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