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 Tangle 7:
The Disillusioned Candidates

By David Schwartz

Green poster-boards listing candidates' names sit at the Board of Elections headquarters, mock-ups of the ballots that will slide into voting machines come primary day, September 11th. Board of Election workers check the spellings of names and make sure the party affiliation and district is correct. These lists of candidates for the primary are not final -- at least not officially.

"It'll be tentative until the day before the primary," says Joe LaRocca, the coordinator of candidate records at the Board of Election.

LaRocca and other election workers recall the story of how, long ago, right on the night before a primary, a court reversed a decision and ordered a candidate for Brooklyn civil court judge back on the ballot. New ballots were printed up at the last minute and every voting machine in the borough had to be changed. (Nobody seems to recall the candidate's name.)

"Anything can happen. You never know," LaRocca says. "Other states, they have a cut-off date. All the appeals, everything, have to be done a couple months ahead of the election.

"I'd love that," he says. "Then maybe I could have a summer vacation like normal people."

But, though it is legally possible for some of the candidates who were kicked off the ballot to get back on, it is not likely. The last state case finished up in late August, when Sandra Roper, Eileen Nadelson, and Peter Sweeney got back on the ballot. Absentee ballots were mailed out weeks ago. Disgruntled candidates can still take their cases to federal court. It is rare, though, that the federal courts will hear such a case

And so the promise of Campaign 2001 comes, for some, to an end. About 420 New Yorkers, many enticed by the promise that matching public funds and the new term limits law would create a "level playing field," became candidates for public office this year, the most in New York City's history. Some 61 of those candidates got kicked off the ballot. Another 18 were kicked off the Democratic ticket, but remain on a minor party line, effectively dashing their hopes of winning.

Their experiences have given them the kind of insights into New York politics that, it is safe to say, they would rather not have had.


George Poulos, a candidate for district 22 in Astoria, wrote a letter to the editor of the Queens Courier pleading with the candidates not to contest each other's petitions. "It is unfair to knock off a person off the ballot on minor technicalities."

Poulos was challenged though, and got knocked off the ballot by the Board of Elections.

Another candidate in district 22, Sandra Vassos, came up 39 signatures short after being challenged at the Board of Elections. One type of challenge Vassos' petitions faced was over voters who wrote their first names as nicknames, Costantino shortened to Costas or Gus.

Her campaign manager, John Bougiamas, said, "We should be encouraging voters to participate in the process, not using excuses to exclude them because of the ways they signed their names." She still remains on the Republican Party line.

At least one other candidate for the race has a different view. Peter Vallone Jr., the son of the current City Council Speaker, is running for his father's seat and challenging the other candidates - or, more precisely, challenging the signatures of the voters who supported them.

"Petition challenges are part of the electoral process," said Evan Stavisky a consultant for the Vallone, Jr. campaign.


Renaldo Clarke, a candidate in district 31, said he did not have the $5,000 to pay an election lawyer to appeal the Board's ruling. He said that candidate Amanda Clarke challenged his petitions, so that, he said "there wouldn't be two Clarkes on the ballot."


Domenic Recchia Jr. has the endorsement of the Brooklyn Democratic organization, and has raised over $116,000, nearly twice as much as his closest competitor Susan Lasher. Not content at his lead, Recchia Jr. challenged the signatures of two Coney Island activists, Alfreida Davis and Cynthia Sanchez. Sanchez was kicked off. She is not surprised by the challenge. "The people in power do not want real representation and would rather just sit back and do nothing," said Sanchez, who will still be running as a candidate for the Green party.


Louisa Chan in Jackson Heights, Queens, was challenged and kicked off the Democratic line at the Board of Elections by Helen Sears and the Queens Democratic organization. So were five other Democratic candidates. Louisa Chan's crime? She had crossed out "NYC" on some petitions and written out "New York City."

Chan won her court case to put her back on the ballot, but between fighting at the board and in court, she failed to qualify for matching funds. "I was too busy trying to stay on the ballot," Chan says.

Now, she will not get matching funds until a few days before the election. "All I needed was a little money. But I am going to keep on going."

Paul Bader missed the first round of matching funds because he was briefly off the ballot. Bader said that the challenge, which came from opponent Anthony Pugliese, caught him by surprise. According to Bader and several other Democrats in the race, the candidates were asked at a forum held in May if they would challenge an opponent's petitions, and they all said "no." A spokesman for Pugliese's campaign said that Bader did not get that many signatures and said that Pugliese thought a candidate for City Council should be prepared to work hard. So Pugliese challenged the fact that some of the people who were collecting signatures for Bader did not themselves live in the 39th district. The Board of Elections ruled that indeed they were not, and invalidated hundreds of signatures. But Bader appealed the ruling saying that the requirement that petitioners live in the district where they are collecting signatures used to be the law, but it is not anymore.

The law was changed, fittingly, by Bader and other council candidates who filed a lawsuit against the Brooklyn Democratic party, claiming that the rule put them at a disadvantage. As a result of the lawsuit, the organization repealed the rule in June. Bader appealed the board's decision immediately, and was reinstated on the ballot four days later. "People deserve to have their choice of candidates," says Bader. "Their vote is how the election should be decided."

Bader has since received the maximum amount of matching funds.


Norbert Chwat was a Democratic hopeful in district 29 when Melinda Katz and the Queens Democratic party challenged his petitions. Chwat, along with his wife and campaign manager, Estelle, went in front of the Board of Elections to defend himself. "I was trying to give them background, and they said, 'We don't have time for this. You've got two minutes,'" Chwat recalls.

Estelle suffered a mini-stroke while attempting to defend her husband's petitions in two minutes. While the couple was at the hospital, the board voted to remove him. Chwat was offered an opportunity to appeal at a later date, but he declined, he says, because he was tending to his wife. "I'm very upset and disgusted by these events," says Chwat. His ire was directed in particular at Melinda Katz and the Queens Democratic party's decision to challenge his petitions. "I've been a loyal Democrat for 40 years, carrying petitions for people like Alan Hevesi, and even Melinda Katz. But they still objected. This is unconscionable, and I resent it deeply."

Despite the setback, Chwat continues his run as the candidate for the Conservative party, which approached him several weeks ago. He still hopes to focus his campaign on improving the district's sanitation, housing, and transportation policies, and relieving overcrowded schools. And a few weeks after the mini-stroke, Chwat reports his wife is recovering well.

Jeannette Evans was knocked off the Democratic ballot, she says, for submitting a faulty cover sheet on her petition and signatures. "The Board of Elections just wasn't very communicative whenever I had a question about the format for the cover sheet or the petition," says Evans. "It's almost pitiful."

Evans is still enthusiastic about continuing her run as the Green party candidate. "People were very receptive," says Evans. "They seem ready for a third party option, for a new voice and a new viewpoint. We have people in office who are the status quo. I oppose the status quo."

Stanley Kinard, in district 36, said that one of his people who gathered signatures was not a registered Democrat, and he lost 195 signatures when they were challenged by Al Vann. Kinard was off the ballot.

"I think everybody should have the right to participate in the democratic process," said Kinard. "He's trying to deprive the people of the right to have a real election. I would have posed a serious challenge to him in the Democratic primary."

George Martinez was knocked off the ballot for the Democratic primary. "The organization brought out a laundry list of challenges, before they even knew what we had," says Martinez. "This is really a dig toward grassroots campaigns." Martinez says he turned in 1,300 signatures to the Board of Elections (only 900 are required) but his list was cut down as Angel Rodriguez's lawyers challenged the addresses of people who signed. "We did not know it but some people had moved or were confused about what district they lived in," says Martinez.

Martinez's appeal in court failed, but he will still appear on the general election in November as an Independence party candidate. "I feel I've been doing really good work as an independent Democrat, so I'm still excited and we're not going to stop," says Martinez.

After the county organization challenged Rosalind O'Neal, a former Democratic candidate in district 31, she was just seven signatures short of the required 900 to get on the ballot. "This is not a process that works with the people," said O'Neal. "Let's get candidates on the ballot and then let the people decide who they want. But they didn't defeat me. Whoever sits in that seat is going to have to do their job, because there are grassroots people watching." O'Neal will be in the general election in November on the Independence line.


Julio Mercado was knocked off the Democratic ballot for district 34. "I am thoroughly disgusted with the practices of the Democratic party," said Mercado, a local minister. Mercado will be on the general election ballot in November as a Conservative and Right-To-Life party candidate. He is continuing to campaign and said affordable housing is the main issue for the district.

Kicked off the ballot, Imogene Baldwin-Ferguson, in district 35 , said she will mount a write-in campaign, mailing illustrated instructions to the people who signed her petitions. She will also station volunteers at the polling places with pencils with her name written on them. "We're trying to make this as painless as possible," said Baldwin-Ferguson. "I'm still campaigning. I'm going to keep doing what I've been doing."

Elizabeth Atwood King also lost her spot on the Democratic ballot, in district 46. King lost her appeal in court. "I believe that the decision is erroneous and should not have taken place," said King, vowing: "I will continue my campaign." Meaning she will still run as a write-in candidate. "I have momentum and name recognition," she said. "The system is designed to eliminate qualified, experienced candidates without money or political backing."


Joe Palmer Doyle, the fire fighter running in district 32, was knocked off the ballot after Lew Simon, the area's Democratic district leader, challenged his signatures. "I raised $6,000 and I knocked on a lot of doors," said Doyle. "But I just didn't have the horses I needed."

Not everyone is so glum about the election tangle. W. Ruth Whitney was ultimately knocked off the Democratic ballot, though she did manage to win a partial reprieve from the Board of Elections. Later, it was overturned in court. "The way I look at it," said Whitney. "I was on the ballot for a day."

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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

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.

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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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