ON CAMPAIGN 2001:
on the pull-down menu and select your district
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
What is Searchlight on Campaign 2001?
on Campaign 2001 is a guide to the political races in what
many are calling New York City's most significant campaign
season in modern history.
What is so significant about it?
the first time in memory, most political offices in the city
will be wide open to people who have neither money nor connections.
Why will the races be so open?
are two reasons. This year, a new law goes into effect that
limits the terms of New York City elected officials, forcing
the mass retirement of most incumbents in the city - including
the mayor, the comptroller, the public advocate, four of the
five borough presidents, and 36 of the 51 members of the City
Council. At the same time, a new campaign finance law kicks
in, which allows any candidate who agrees to certain restrictions
to collect four dollars of matching funds for every dollar
What does this have to do with this site?
a public service, Searchlight on Campaign 2001 has a separate
page for each race, including all the races for City Council,
that not only sorts out the candidates -- many of them new
and unfamiliar -- but also offers an opportunity to learn
about the issues, and the districts themselves.
Who is behind Searchlight on Campaign 2001?
on Campaign 2001 is a project of Gotham Gazette, a non-profit,
non-partisan, non-ideological (but non-boring) web site about
New York City news, policy and politics published by Citizens
Union Foundation, part of the oldest and largest good-government
group in the city (founded in 1897).
What's wrong with the way the regular press
covers the races?
is for you to decide. And one of our regular features, Campaign
Trail, helps you to decide. Campaign Trail provides succinct
summaries and links to campaign articles in the commercial
Who are we?
Leaders or Seat Warmers?
By Michael Burger
Video camera in hand, Jose Rivera zoomed in on his 22-year-old
son, Joel, an undergraduate at Fordham University. Like
any proud father, he wanted to record his child's moment
of glory. Only, this was not the end of May on a college
campus, but last Tuesday at City Hall, and the elder Rivera
was not videotaping Joel's graduation but his swearing-in.
Joel Rivera was taking over the City Council seat that
his father Jose Rivera had possessed until November, when
he left to become a member of the New York State Assembly.
Joel Rivera defeated his opponent Edwin Ortiz in a special
election held last Month (He must run for re-election
this fall). Ortiz, 13 years his senior, has worked for
more than a decade as a youth and tenant organizer, a
campaigner for the Democratic party, and a previous candidate
for public office. Rivera, who has a resume without explicit
work experience, campaigned by mentioning events he attended
when he was five years old. "This campaign was 22 years
in the making," he said to his supporters after his victory.
After the City Hall ceremony last week, Councilmember
Victor Robles rose to commemorate Joel's election: "Let
me remind you that besides being the youngest member ever
on the council, he made history because both the father
and the son are sitting elected officials. So we have
one up on the Bushes. We have the history books."
Councilmember Phil Reed then rose to speak. "With all
due respect to Councilmember Robles, we actually have
two such father-son teams simultaneously in office."
Reed was referring to State Senator Pedro Espada Jr.
and his son, City Councilman Pedro Gautier Espada. As
it happens, the Riveras and the Espadas are political
rivals. The senior Espada and the senior Rivera may run
against one another for borough president of the Bronx.
"Nepotism is nothing new in American politics," political
consultant Hank Sheinkopf told the Daily
News. But what is happening this campaign season in
New York is making some kind of history -- and that makes
some people very unhappy.
The reign of George W. Bush follows only eight years
after the presidency of his father, George Bush. (For
history buffs: the presidency of John Quincy Adams followed
some 20 years after that of his father John Adams, and
Benjamin Harrison, the 23rd U.S. President, was the grandson
of the ninth, William Henry Harrison.) The younger Bush's
opponent, former Vice President Al Gore Jr., was the son
of a U.S. Senator Al Gore Sr.
"There are a lot of family traditions specifically in
New York," says political consultant Joseph Mercurio.
There were of course the Roosevelts. On Staten Island,
the father-daughter team of Guy and Susan Molinari have
operated their own political shop. In 1985, while Mr.
Molinari sat in the U.S. Congress, Susan, 27 years old
at the time, became the sole Republican on the City Council.
Five years later, he became borough president and she
took over his seat in the House.
But thanks to term limits, the city is seeing more relatives
running at one time than ever before. There are at least
a half dozen races in which one of the candidates is the
son or daughter of the incumbent council member:
- District 16 in the Bronx: Helen Diane Foster,
daughter of Wendell Foster
- District 22 in Queens: Peter Vallone Jr., son
of Peter Vallone Sr
- District 37 in Brooklyn: Erik Malave-Dilan,
son of Martin Malave-Dilan,
- District 40 in Brooklyn: Yvette Clarke, daughter
of Una Clarke
- District 42 in Brooklyn: Donald Wooten, son
of Priscilla Wooten, Donald Wooten
Rickly Dear, the wife of Councilmember Noach Dear, is
also reportedly considering a run to succeed him in district
44 in Brooklyn.
This phenomenon has not left everybody with a warm and
fuzzy feeling. "We've spent years getting away from colonial
rules of government," says Wellington Sharpe. "I don't
want to see us setting up a royalty here." Sharpe, a Jamaican
immigrant who operates a day care center, is running for
council from district 40 in Brooklyn. One of his opponents
is Yvette Clarke, 35, daughter of Una Clarke, the current
council member in the district.
Critics have charged that some of these running relatives
are little more than surrogates for their parents. Due
to citywide redistricting, elections will be held again
in two years. So, critics believe, some incumbents are
running their children as a way to keep the seats warm
until they themselves can run again in 2003. Others suspect
that the older generation will stay on behind the scenes,
regardless of whether they run again, working their parental
THE REALITY OF POWER
Candidates opposing the offspring of council members
are confronted with a unique, if not entirely uncommon,
problem. "As a matter of fact, I am running against Una
Clarke," says Sharpe. "It's not against her daughter per
se. I'm running against the establishment, whatever friends
and people she has. There are people who owe her favors.
So all she has to do is call them in. It's not a level
Yvette Clarke, director of business services at the Bronx
Overall Economic Development Corp who says she was encouraged
by friends of her mother to run, acknowledges the benefits
of her bloodline. "When one has the support of an incumbent,
there is an advantage," she says. "They've established
relationships, and their reputation and rapport precedes
them. When you start from scratch, you have to gain entree,
you have to gain access to and support from entities within
the community. It's a challenge to differentiate yourself
Michael Benjamin is running against Helen Diane Foster,
daughter of Councilmember Rev. Wendell Foster, for the
seat in the Highbridge section of the Bronx. Benjamin
sees this election as a transitional moment. "It is an
opportunity to remake the city council, to make it more
diverse, more reflective of city at large," he says. But
Benjamin is facing the same problems as Sharpe, Ortiz,
and the rest. "Wendell Foster has the name recognition
of ten years of taxpayer funded mailings," he says. "He's
introducing his daughter as his successor, creating fear
that capital projects in the hopper won't get funded if
she's not elected. He's putting his machinery behind his
daughter and he's not making any bones about it."
Benjamin says Rev. Foster is trying to set up a dynasty.
"He's stated that people who don't vote for his daughter
are racist, because there are the Bushes and the Kennedy'sā¤|.It's
distasteful that he wants to keep it in the family, rather
than let people who have been out there doing it for years
serve in a greater capacity. She's never been to meetings
outside his presence. She's just parachuting in."
Helen Foster, of course, does not see it this way. "The
more I was out with my father, which I've been doing since
I was ten, more and more people expressed an interest
in my running," says Foster, who is 34. "I've been meeting
with a core group of ministers and political advisers.
They're asking me to consider it, pray on it, and be guided
THE PARENT-CHILD BOND
Joel Rivera and Yvette Clarke learned politics from their
parents. They worked on campaigns, attended political
events, and met the right people. Clarke, who ran her
mother's congressional bid and both of her reelection
campaigns, says she learned "sort of by osmosis." Rivera
speaks of standing beside his father in Vieques, Puerto
Rico during protests of U.S. naval operations there, and
in the Bronx during protests of the Amadou Diallo killing.
"It cannot be ignored, the experience that the children
of council members have gained," he says. "It's a real
life experience. No one can match that."
The influence of parents on their children in any circumstance
is undeniable; in these instances, the boundary between
the personal and the political disappears, giving some
credence to fears of a democracy undermined by filial
Rivera says that his father has always been his mentor.
"This is a man who has been involved in politics for 30
years," he says. "He knows the issues, and that is how
I came to know the issues that face the community. I will
always look up to him."
"Her expertise is invaluable," says Clarke of her mother.
"She can start a sentence and I can almost finish it."
"My father and I have always had a relationship where
I'm his sounding board," says Helen Diane Foster. "And
not just in politics but in life. We don't make a move
without one bouncing ideas off the other."
And Peter Vallone Jr., 39, who is running to fill mayoral
candidate Peter Vallone Sr.'s seat in Astoria, adds: "I
look to my father for advice on all matters political.
He's probably the best source available, and I'm lucky
to have him. Nobody knows more about how city government
works than my father."
Dutiful sons and daughters all.
What is this?
Gotham Gazette's Searchlight on Campaign 2001 offers a comprehensive
look at what is being called New York City's most significant
campaign season in modern history. (See the left-hand column
for an explanation).
Districts of the Week
1 -- Lower Manhattan
Whoever wins the election in district 1 will represent immigrant
Chinese garment workers, as well as Wall Street traders living
in Battery Park City. There are several candidates hoping
to be the council's firsts -- the first Asian-American man,
the first Asian-American woman, the first gay Rhodes Scholar,
the first dot-com guru -- running against some politically
well connected opponents. Endorsements and fundraising will
play a big role in this race. But voter turnout could be the
main determinant of who will next represent district 1 on
the council. The key question is how many voters from each
community will come out on Election Day.
7 -- Washington Heights, Manhattan
The northern tip of Manhattan has become one of the most popular
places for new immigrants to call home. The northern tip of
Manhattan is a place that today's new immigrants call home.
The majority have come from the Dominican Republic, but also
from countries in South America, Eastern Europe, and Asia.
But it is not just new immigrants that are moving in. Students,
artists, and other Manhattanites looking for less expensive
rents and larger apartments have also moved north. Ten Democratic
candidates are competing for the 15,000 voters expected on
primary day. The winner who emerges from a crowded field of
candidates will have to balance the needs of the newcomers
with those who have lived there for years.
16 -- Highbridge, Bronx
The neighborhoods of district 16 are the city's poorest, with
the highest rate of unemployment and the lowest median household
income. But those who live there also point out that much
is positive and stable about the area, thanks in large part
to local organizations, not-for-profit agencies, and houses
of worship that help hold the neighborhoods together. Each
candidate for City Council believes that through his or her
connections to churches and local organizations, they can
help empower the community toward a better life. Helen Foster,
the current council member daughter, will face Michael Benjamin,
who has worked as an aide to several government officials
and Anthony Curry, a Bronx neighborhood activist.
20 -- Northeast Flushing, Queens
This year district 20 may elect the first Asian-American ever
to the City Council to an area which now has the second highest
number of immigrants from Korea and Taiwan in the city. There
are three Asian candidates in the Democratic race who have
each drawn big endorsements. Council Speaker Peter Vallone
endorsed Terence Park, City Comptroller Alan Hevesi endorsed
John Liu, and the New York Times recently endorsed Ethel Chen
The campaign has also drawn national and international press
25 -- Jackson Heights, Queens
Thirty-seventh Avenue in Jackson Heights, Queens is one of
the most diverse streets in the world. Little India quickly
blends into Little Colombia, with vendors selling Latin American
food to Colombians, Peruvians, Ecuadorians, Mexicans, and
Uruguayans. And each summer, the Queens Pride Parade fills
the same street with rainbow banners. So it is no surprise
that this election year the district produced a diverse field
of candidates. A number of them, however, found out that getting
on the ballot is not an easy task, especially when the Queens
Democratic organization sends teams of lawyers to challenge
petitions. But five Democratic candidates survived and will
face off on September 11.
31 -- South East Queens
When a heavy rain hits southeast Queens, many residents in
neighborhoods like Springfield Gardens, Laurelton and Rosedale
head to the basement with a bucket in hand. And it has been
that way for the last 50 years. In the rush to build housing
in the area after World War II, developers overlooked the
need for storm drains in hopes that the city would eventually
build a city-wide sewer system. The plan never materialized
and the area has experienced "100-year rains" three times
in the last decade. The eight Democrats -- all with little
experience overseeing massive infrastructure projects--will
try to convince voters that they can finally solve the flooding
35 -- Central Brooklyn
The residents in council district 35 have some of the highest
incomes in Brooklyn and some of the lowest. They can play
in a famous park and a beautiful botanical garden, and live
in the city's most crumbling public housing. They can attend
one of the four institutions of higher learning in the district,
and the worst-scoring high schools in the city. Such juxtapositions
are a way of life for a district that includes the Brooklyn
Academy of Music, the Brooklyn Museum, and the Brooklyn Botanical
Gardens; mid dle-class African-American communities near Prospect
Park; immigrant communities from Haiti, Sierra Leon, Nigeria,
and Trinidad, and in Crown Heights, a mix of Hasidic Jews
and African-Americans. Seven Democratic candidates are campaigning
in hopes that they can bring some kind of unity, and attention,
to the area. Their backgrounds are as diverse as the neighborhoods
39 -- Park Slope/Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn
The candidates in district 39 include a chief of staff for
an Assemblywoman, the husband of a member of U.S. Congress,
a lawyer for the Legal Aid Society, an attorney and president
of the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats, Senator Hillary
Clinton's campaign manager, the district manager of Community
Board 6, and a labor organizer. This is the race to watch
this year. The group of high-profile Democrats have raised
a lot of money, almost $1.4 million combined.
45 -- East Flatbush
In no place in the city are the effects of campaign finance
reform and term limits being felt more than in East Flatbush.
The seven Democratic candidates seeking to represent this
largely West Indian district come from a number of Caribbean
nations. Many have been working on politicians' staffs and
serving with community groups, clearly hoping someday to win
their own elected office. Term limits has presented them with
that opportunity, and they want to make the most of it. But
this race that usually draws only about 8,000 voters could
be decided by just a few votes. The candidates are attempting
to come up with anything that will separate them from the
49 -- North Shore, Staten Island
Staten Island has always been somewhat of a suburban stepchild
to New York City. When a 1998 survey asked New Yorkers why
they go to Staten Island, the top two responses were ''visiting
friends and relatives" and ''passing through.'' But in many
ways, the north shore has more in common with areas of Manhattan
and Brooklyn than with the rest of the Staten Island. The
top priority for all the candidates -- Jon Del Giorno, an
administrative manager for the Board of Elections, Mike McMahon,
an attorney and counsel to current Councilmember Jerome O'Donovan,
and Debi Rose, an administrator at the College of Staten Island
and the first African-American candidate in Staten Island
politics -- is to make sure that the island becomes more than
just a turn-around-point for the over one million tourists
who ride the free ferry from Manhattan each year.
for Party Affiliation
Dream Party (AMD)
Better Schools Party (BES)
Friends United Party (FUN)
Fusion Party (FUS)
Harmony Party (HAR)
Marijuana Reform Party (POT)
Natural Law Party (NLP)
Party of Ethics and Traditions (PET)
Reform Party (Ref)
Right to Life (RTL)
School Choice Party (Sch)
Socialist Workers Party (SWP)
Working Families (Wor)
1 -- Deadline for candidates to join the Campaign Finance
program, qualifying for the four-to-one match of contributions.
5 - First day for candidates from the eight major parties
(Democratic, Republican, Indpendence, Conservative, Liberal,
Green, Working Families, and Right to Life) to circulate
petitions. Candidates running for City Council must collect
the signatures of at least 900 people living in the district
for which they are running in order to appear on the Primary
ballot. Candidates not running under these eight major parties
do not appear on the Primary ballot and have a separate
set of deadlines.
July 12 - Deadline for major party candidates to
July 10 - First day for unaffiliated candidates to
circulate petitions, in order to appear on the ballot in
the General Election. They must collect the number of signatures
equal to five percent of the total enrolled in that party.
August 7 - Board of Elections announces candidates
appearing on the Primary ballot.
August 17 - Last day for non-absentee voters to register
to vote in the Primary Election.
August 21 - Deadline for non-major party candidates
to file petitions to be included on the General Election
September 4 - Last day to postmark application for
absentee voting in the Primary
September 10 - Last day to personally deliver application
for absentee voting in the Primary Last day to postmark
absentee ballot for Primary
September 11 - Primary election; Polls open at 6:00a.m.
and close at 9:00p.m.; Absentee ballots must be hand-delivered
by 9:00 p.m.
September 25 - Runoff Primary election for Mayor,
Comptroller and Public Advocate, if needed
October 12 - Last day to for non-absentee voters
to register to vote in the General Election
October 30 - Last day to postmark application for
absentee voting in the General Election
November 5 - Last day to hand-deliver an application
for absentee voting, or to postmark an absentee ballot for
the General Election.
November 6 - General Election; polls open at 6:00a.m.
and close at 9:00p.m. in NYC; Absentee ballots must be hand-delivered
by 9:00 p.m.
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