Campaign 2001 Feature

Learn About
Your District

Click 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 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?


The Latest Third Party In NYC

By Peter Szabo

When the bill to create a "living wage" in New York is introduced into the City Council later this month, Bertha Lewis will be smiling. Lewis is one of three chairmen of the Working Families Party, which, though only three years old, is the third largest political party in New York City. Thanks to the Working Families Party, dozens of members of the City Council have promised to support the legislation, which would require companies with government contracts to offer their employees a salary of at least ten dollars an hour plus health insurance ($11.50 an hour without health insurance.)

If Bertha Lewis does not seem at first glance like your typical party boss - she is the executive director of ACORN, an advocacy group for poor city neighborhoods - she certainly sounds like one when talking about City Council support for the living wage. "If you're not on this," she says, "you're dead, as far as we're concerned."

The Working Families Party is the latest example of the power of third party politics in New York City, a tradition that includes the American Labor Party of the 1930s and the Liberal Party of the 1960s and 1970s.

Independent party politics play an occasionally potent role nationally as well, with the most recent examples being Ralph Nader's run for president last year on the Green Party ticket arguably tilting the election to George W. Bush; Senator Jim Jeffords defection from the Republican Party to become an independent resulting in a Democratic majority in the U.S. Senate; and the recent talk of Senator John McCain's consideration of an independent run for president in 2004.

But in New York City, third parties have had more consistent impact. The Liberal Party gave a place on the ballot for Mayor John Lindsay to win reelection in 1969 after he lost the Republican primary, and accounted for the margin of victory for Rudy Giuliani in the 1993 mayoral race. Its endorsement of Alan Hevesi this month was seen as giving the comptroller a boost in this year's mayoral race because it guarantees him a place on the November ballot.

Similarly Republican Michael Bloomberg sought out the endorsement of the Independence Party, and received it in May, guaranteeing him a spot in the ballot in November a month before he even announced he was running. The Independence Party, the New York offshoot of the now-fractured national party founded by H. Ross Perot, was for a time the third largest party in the state (now fallen after last November's elections to sixth). Mainstream Democrats such as Hillary Clinton and the major Democratic candidates for mayor shun New York's Independence Party because of the involvement of Lenora Fulani, whom the Daily News likes to identify as "perennial fringe candidate," and who has been accused of anti-Semitism, a charge she denies.

A measure of how valuable the backing of the Working Families Party is considered to be is the large number of Democrats who have been lining up for its endorsement.


The major difference between Working Families and the other major third parties in the city is that it is built around other institutions. This is the conclusion of Micah Sifry, who is a senior analyst at Public Campaign (a nonprofit group that advocates for campaign finance reform), and who wrote an article in The Nation on the Working Families Party . He is also the author of the forthcoming Spoiling for a Fight: Third Party Politics in America. Leading members of the Working Families Party's coalition of unions and community groups include the Communications Workers of America (District 1 and Local 1180), the United Auto Workers (Regions 9 and 9-A), and ACORN.

"Somebody has to extol a progressive movement to those of us who work for a living," one union official told the Village Voice when the Working Families coalition was forming. "If it's not us, who's it going to be?"

The common interests shared by this coalition make up a specific agenda that is on the left, but hardly far out, at least in New York. At the top of their agenda is the living wage legislation, both in the city, and throughout the state. A recent effort to pass a living wage measure failed in Rockland County, though a similar effort in Suffolk County passed the local legislature 17 to 1 on June 5th. Working Families also has pressed for an increase in the state minimum wage to $6.75 per hour, indexed to inflation. The party advocates one billion dollars a year for affordable housing for ten years, and an investment in school facilities of five billion dollars over the next five years. Highly critical of the tax-reduction packages that keep big corporations in the city, Working Families calls for redirecting economic development resources to companies that provide low and middle-income jobs, City Council oversight of these deals, and provisions for punishing companies who renege on their promises.

Over the long term, the party wants to redefine the political debate in New York. Its model is the Conservative Party. No New York Republican in 25 years has won statewide office without Conservative Party votes. The result: state Republicans have been pulled to the right.

"Our goal is to yank New York politics as a whole back in a humane and progressive direction," says Dan Cantor, the executive director of the Working Families Party.

To pull off its strategy, Working Families is focused on increasing the number of votes on its ballot line by organizing African Americans and Latinos, especially those who have not participated in the political process, and by engaging white working class Republican and conservative Democratic voters. With these constituencies as a base, Working Families hopes to regularly capture five to ten percent of the vote on its ballot line

The third-party strategy of endorsing candidates from another (usually major) party, known as "fusion," is practiced in earnest only in New York. Today, fusion is illegal in all but seven states. The reason for this is largely the result of lobbying by the two major parties that goes back a century.


After the national rise of the Peoples' and Progressive parties in the 1890s and early 1900s, the Democrats and Republicans worked hard to curtail the influence of third parties.

But in New York City, it was different. In the 1920s and 30s the Socialists and Communists were major forces. Back in the 1930s and 40s when there was proportional representation in the New York City Council, four and five parties, including the Communist Party, were regularly represented on the Council, according to Rob Richie, executive director of the Center for Voting and Democracy. Potent among them was the American Labor Party a leftist, labor-based party that was powerful enough to elect Vito Marcantonio to Congress in 1938, according to Immanuel Ness, political science professor at Brooklyn College and editor of The Encyclopedia of Third Parties in America

But Cold War politics ended proportional voting and drove most of these parties out of business. Only the Liberal Party gained strength over the next several decades.

By the mid-1960s the Liberal Party was a key player in city and state politics, positioning itself as a party on the left. But critics say the party has since lost most of its emphasis on issues, becoming primarily a patronage factory.

Indeed, many still remember 1980 as a textbook case in what critics cite as the largest downside of third-party politics. When Senator Jacob Javits lost the Republican primary in 1980, but stayed on the Liberal line for the general election, he siphoned votes from the Democratic nominee Liz Holtzman, and is thus "credited" with electing Al D'Amato.

Working Families has its roots in the New Party, which was founded in the early 1990s. The New Party launched a challenge to bans on fusion that went all the way to the Supreme Court (Timmons v. Twin Cities Area New Party). In its 6 to 3 ruling against the New Party, the high court's conservative majority (plus Justice Breyer) held that states could limit the free speech and association rights of political parties if states thought that unrestricted exercise of those rights would cause voter confusion or unacceptable disruption of the two-party system. "Ballots serve primarily to elect candidates, not as fora for political expression," wrote Chief Justice William Rehnquist in his majority opinion. After the ruling it was clear that, for a long time to come, there would be only one state where a fusion strategy was feasible, New York. And that's where new efforts were focused.

The Working Families Party was created in June 1998. But to gain a "permanent" spot on the ballot, the party needed 50,000 votes statewide in the 1998 gubernatorial election. To try and get these votes Working Families endorsed Peter Vallone, reflecting from the start the party's pragmatic approach to politics. On election night Working Families appeared to be just 2,000 votes short of what it needed. But as absentee and paper ballots were counted and recounts were completed, it went over the top, officially netting 51,325 votes.


Since then, the party's most tangible accomplishment has been simply its own growth as an organization. State-wide, the party now has 16 full-time staffers, 18 local chapters, and 5,000 donors who contributed about $1 million last year. Party organizing reflects a strong desire to exist in-between elections as well as for them. "You can go to a Working Families Party chapter meeting or event any night of the week in this state," says Cantor.

Since it was launched in 1998, votes on the Working Families line doubled in many white working class neighborhoods in New York City, and nearly tripled in African American and Latino neighborhoods. For example, Bushwick and Bedford Stuyvesant (Assembly District 54) and East New York (AD 40) yielded respectively four and seven times as many votes on the Working Families Party line in 2000 as in 1998, while the general turnout merely doubled.

Working Families also doubled its votes in all three Staten Island Assembly Districts. While in 1998 Conservative Party votes outnumbered Working Families votes 13 to 1 on Staten Island, in 2000, this narrowed to three to one.

Still, the party registered only slight gains in historically progressive and reliably Democratic areas such as the Upper West Side, Greenwich Village, and Park Slope.

Working Families is using endorsements and organizing to play a role in this year's citywide elections. The party's endorsements range from fresh, activist progressives, to front-running liberals, to conservatives and products of the Democratic machine. (They have yet to agree on an endorsement for mayor, or even if the party should endorse someone for mayor).

Despite its growth, to some on the left Working Families has failed to become a real alternative party. They say the party's agenda is driven by big labor and they chide the party for endorsements of machine-Democrats and for not running its own candidates. "More often than not," liberal columnist Doug Ireland wrote in a recent issue of The Nation, the Working Families Party "functions as little more than a liberal adjunct of the Democratic Party."

"What are they doing to distinguish themselves as something other than a Liberal Party with a more ethical approach to giving out their ballot line?" asks Micah Sifry. "I don't think they've quite gotten there yet. Being an endorsement machine is not why they got into this business."

To date the Working Families Party ballot line has been used mostly to reward, rather than to punish. The party's hundreds of endorsements in all manner of races around the state have gone overwhelmingly to Democrats. "The question really becomes are you really willing to endorse a Republican," says one political observer. "Sooner or later, if your line means anything, you've got to be willing to do that."

"The task is how can we be both independent and relevant," says Cantor, summing up the party's challenge going forward. It's basic strategy, fusion, poses daunting problems. Endorsing mainly Democrats breeds dependence. Running little-known home-grown candidates results in irrelevance. It remains to be seen whether Working Families can succeed in achieving relevance and yet be an independent party that is, in fact, independent.

Working Families Party Endorsements

Bill Thompson - Comptroller

Manhattan City Council Districts

  • District 1 Rocky Chin
  • District 2 Margarita Lopez
  • District 3 Christine Quinn
  • District 5 Gifford Miller
  • District 6 Gale Brewer
  • District 7 Robert Jackson
  • District 8 Phil Reed
  • District 9 Bill Perkins
  • District 10 Ydanis Rodriguez


  • Borough President Adolpho Carrion
  • City Council District 16 Michael Benjamin


  • Borough President Helen Marshall
  • District 19 Arthur Cheliotis
  • District 20 John Liu
  • District 21 Hiram Monserrate
  • District 23 David Weprin
  • District 25 James Van Bramer
  • District 26 Joseph Heaphy
  • District 28 Patrick Jenkins
  • District 29 Melinda Katz
  • District 30 Elizabeth Crowley
  • District 31 James Sanders


  • District 33 Ken Diamondstone
  • District 35 Letitia James
  • District 40 Jean Vernet
  • District 42 Charles Barron
  • District 43 Joanne Seminara-Lehu
  • District 47 Joseph Hochhauser

Staten Island

  • Borough President Jerome X. O'Donovan
  • District 49 Michael McMahon
  • District 50 Libby Hikind
  • District 51 Janey Moran

Civil Court Judge Eric Vitaliano

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.

This website is brought to you by Citizens Union Foundation and is made possible by grants from the Charles H. Revson Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, the New York Times Foundation and viewers like you.