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?


Campaign Tail: Yehuda's Subway Strategy

By Rosanna Roizin

"I'm not trying to sell you anything," Yehuda Katz was saying, clipboard in hand, as he stood in the middle of the noisy, crowded D train. It was rush hour, and the commuters on their way home from work, of course, ignored him.

"I just wanted to say hi and see what you guys think about our government," he said. A few members of his would-be audience glanced over their newspapers at this boy, with his pink cheeks and a wrinkled gray suit barely long enough to meet his ankles.

"My name is Yehuda Katz and I'm running for City Council in this neighborhood. If you want to talk to me about any issues you have with our government, let me know and I'll come over."

An elderly woman carrying three shopping bags and standing a few feet away, turned to look at him. "How old are you?" she asked.

"I'm old enough to run," Katz answered. He is 19.

The woman did not turn away. "We need better subways," she said finally.

Yehuda Katz was happy. "Yeah, I agree, we do need a lot of improvements in our transportation system and that is one thing I would really like to work on," he answered loudly, competing with the roar of the train and with everybody else's conversation.

"More street lights" the woman added.

Katz nodded his head and thanked the woman for her comments. He dug into his front pocket and took out a business card. It was one of the 250 business cards he had brought with him. This was enough, he was sure, to carry him through this latest of his campaign events -- 24 hours of continuous campaigning and petition gathering on the subway. But if he ran out of cards, either his 15-year-old brother or 17-year-old sister, who is his campaign manager, would bring him more. Yehuda Katz was prepared.

It is hard to get attention when you are one of more than 300 candidates running for City Council, you yourself voted for the very first time only about 12 months ago, and you are completely unknown in the community and do not have a lot of money or resources to campaign. So Yehuda Katz took the advice of his high school teacher, who suggested that he stay up for 24 hours on the D and Q train in Southeast Brooklyn, introducing himself to the voters and collecting their signatures. Maybe he would catch some attention, from the public or even from the media.

At 6 p.m. Katz, sweaty from running from train car to train car, walked to the end of the subway car and started to talk to a young Latino woman sitting in a corner seat by herself, listening to her walkman.

"Are you old enough to vote?" he asked her first.

"Yeah." she answered, pulling her headphones off.

"Well, I'm sure a lot of your friends smoke pot, right?" She cautiously nodded her head.

"Well I'm running under the Libertarian party and we think pot should be legalized. At least if not legalized, I would try to get the police to calm down their targeting of teenagers who smoke pot. The police take special care to find kids who are smoking pot and even though they're not supposed to lock you up, they often do, sometimes for a whole day. I have a lot of friends who smoke pot," Katz continued. "I don't, but it's not fair they should live in fear."

The girl listened, but did not respond.

At the next stop - Sheepshead Bay, the last subway stop in his City Council district - Katz got off the train and ran across to the uptown platform to catch the Q train back uptown. He was planning to repeat this 15-minute route hundreds of times in the next 24 hours.

Katz said the key group in his campaign are young people, though actually his district, district 48, which is made up of Sheepshead Bay, Midwood, and Manhattan Beach, has the largest senior citizen population in New York City. Katz feels that young people have been ignored by the government and need to come out and vote in order to show their presence.

Most of the teenagers Katz approached laughed when Katz asked them what they would like to be changed in the government. Some girls suggested kicking President Bush out of office, one college-aged boy said it's a good question but he'll have to think about it and get back to him.

Two excited seventeen-year-old girls offered to help him with his campaign.

"Do you have a campaign manager because let me tell you, you have to demand to be heard because chances are people aren't listening. It is rush hour and everybody's tired coming home from work." The girl, wearing a bright purple cashmere blouse with matching eye shadow, offered to sign her mother's name on Katz's petition.

Katz answered sternly. "You know I can't do that."

"I won't tell, if you won't tell." The other girl jumped in, "You're too jittery, you need to calm down."

A small crowd had formed around Katz, who stood, shoelace untied, rocking from foot to foot, as the train wobbled from stop to stop.

"You're Jewish right?" one of the girls asked. "Well your name is Yehuda so of course you're Jewish, well why don't you target the Jewish people, there's lots of them here. You can come to my school, I go to Flatbush Yeshiva."

"I plan to campaign in Jewish neighborhoods," Katz said, "but I'm not counting on the Jewish vote." Another challenger, Alan Herschaft, he explained, is an Orthodox Jew.

"If you have that kind of attitude then you'll never win," she said. "Are you religious?"

"I've been to Israel, but it is too long a story to tell in one stop," Katz said, giving them his card, and getting out when the doors opened.

"We'll make sure our parents vote for you!" the girls called out after him.

Only 23 more hours to go.

By 7 am the next morning, Katz had collected a total of 10 signatures, out of the hundreds he had planned to get. "I was so tired, I could barely walk," he recalled later. "But as the people began to head out to work I began to wake up."

By 5 pm that evening, 24 hours after he had begun, he had a total of 80 subway riders give him their signatures.

Yehuda Katz was happy, he said. Nobody had asked him any questions he could not answer.

My Street Address:

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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.

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

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Poll Worker Applications

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

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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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