2005-01-28 / Columnists

From the Editor’s Desk

By Howard Schwach

Perhaps Mayor Mike Bloomberg’s defining moment with less than a year to go in the 2005 mayoral election was seen in a candidate’s forum at Harlem’s Canaan Baptist Church last week.

“Fifty years ago, Rosa Parks stood up and said enough, and she made a difference,” the mayor said to the mostly black audience. “We had Shirley Chislom who made a difference, and we have Al Sharpton, who makes a difference – in all fairness.”

Al Sharpton compared favorably to Rosa Parks, the woman who arguably began the civil rights movement in the south when she refused to sit in the back of the bus? I don’t think so, and while many of those in the audience cheered the mayor, a number of others looked at each other and wondered what the mayor had been smoking.

Republican Thomas Ognibene, who may run against Bloomberg in the party primary, when told the comment, said, “If that it true, then I belong in the same sentence with Abraham Lincoln.”

Fernando Ferrer, the Hispanic ex-borough president of the Bronx, was even more succinct.

“If King were alive, he’d be asking, have we all gone mad,” Ferrer said.

Mayor Mike, facing reelection to his second term, has gone from stand-offish business tycoon to a man for all seasons – and all neighborhoods. While the first term focused heavily on Manhattan under the theory that what was good for Manhattan was good for the other four boroughs as well (if, in fact, he was cognizant of the fact that there were four other boroughs) to the exclusion of all of us in the “outer boroughs.” I guess that this is the New York City version of the famous Republican “trickle down theory,” that posits if you give all the wealth to the rich who produce goods, the good times will eventually trickle down to the little guys who buy those goods.

It never worked in economics and it certainly won’t work in city governance.

Bloomberg, however, seems to be getting the word that he has to do more for the “other four.” In fact, one television pundit said that the mayor ordered the Department of Sanitation Commissioner to focus on the other four during last weekend’s snow story, obviously remembering what happened to John Lindsay thirty years ago when Manhattan’s streets were quickly cleared during a like blizzard while Queens and the other outer boroughs waited for four days to see a plow.

How does the election shake down? It is a little early to tell, with ten months to go, but let’s take a look at the early line.

Republican Primary:

Thomas Ognibene wants to run against Bloomberg because he is convinced that the mayor is not really a Republican. That point, in fact, was made strongly by Ognibene and others at a recent party summit in Rockaway. If Ognibene can get the Conservative line in the upcoming election, he might just challenge Bloomberg for the party slot or in the November general election. In any case, Ognibene running as a Conservative could realistically take votes away from Bloomberg if he does win the Republican nod once again.

Remember that Bloomberg only won by 40,000 votes in 2001. That could erode quickly if Ognibene gets the Conservative line.

In addition, Bloomberg has few allies in the Republican camp. He has angered many by his lackluster support for the party’s national ticket in last year’s election and for his “liberal-leaning” activities as mayor. Many other New Yorkers are angry with him for his smoking ban, his ticket blitz and his failure to address the needs of the common man. There are even many city workers who look to defeat Bloomberg because of his failure to come up with contracts. Last, but not least, there are legions who see through his school governance plan and will vote against him simply because he has made the system worse, not better despite anything the scores show.

It is clear that up to now, Bloomberg has disdained the few Republicans in the city, believing that they had no choice but to vote for him or a liberal Democrat. Ognibene could quickly change that perception.

At this point, I would make Bloomberg 2-1 in the Republican primary against Ognibene, with the challenger coming in at 12-1.

Should Ognibene get the Conservative line, however, the primary will not matter very much to the challenger.

As with every election in the past century, the fun lies in the Democratic Primary, where it’s hail, hail, the gang’s all here.

Let’s see if I can come up with a working list: There’s Freddy Ferrer (the ex-Bronx Borough President), C. Virginia Fields (the present Manhattan Borough President), Anthony Weiner (the Congressman who represents much of Rockaway), Gifford Miller (the City Council Speaker) and Charles Barron (the ex-Black Panther City Councilman). There may be others hiding in the woodpile, but for now, that’s what we got.

Bloomberg would love Miller to win the primary, because he is so much like the mayor that he might well be a clone – he has Manhattan Liberal Establishment written all over him and Miller cares as little for the outer boroughs as Bloomberg does in off-election years.

Personally, I don’t think that Miller has the legs to win either the primary or the election and I told him so the last time he was in Rockaway.

He is too much like Koch and Dinkins in his political beliefs and city residents have repudiated politicians of that ilk over and over again the past ten years.

Make Gifford Miller 18-1 in the primary and out of the running in the general election.

Freddy Ferrer seems to be the leading candidate in the primary, and he can certainly bring the Hispanic vote. In 1997, he went too far to the right trying to distance himself from the Liberal template. In 2001, he went the other way and might have well been a Dinkins clone. Neither worked for him very well, so he will probably move to the middle in this election. I don’t think it will help, although his ethnic identification in a city that is becoming more and more Hispanic will help. Mark him 7-1 in the primary and 10-1 in the general election.

Anthony Weiner would be the toughest candidate for Bloomberg to beat in the general election and he would have lots of strength in the same planes that Bloomberg has his strength. He is bright and hard-working although he does not always keep his promises to the community (the pool at Riis Park, planes over Belle Harbor, etc.). He can hurt the mayor in Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island, but probably will be weak in minority communities. The question remains, can he win the primary against Miller and Ferrer. If Miller fades, however, as I expect he will do as people get to know him, then it comes down to a moderate to liberal Jewish candidate against a who-knows-what Hispanic candidate and anything can happen.

Mark Weiner 7-1 in the primary and 3-1 in the general election if he gets that far. If he wins the primary and Ognibene is in the race as a Conservative, then Weiner can take it all.

C Virginia Field is a long-shot. Mark her 20-1 in the primary and out of the money in the general election although she may well get some of the women’s vote.

Charles Barron is a anti-Semitic Black Power lunatic who deserves no time in this space. He would just as soon all the white people in New York go away somewhere. Mark him out of the running in any election. My favorite scenario would be a win by Weiner in the Democratic primary, a win by Bloomberg in the Republican primary and Ognibene running as a Conservative. That makes a wide-open election and anything can happen. And, it will.

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