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13th September

First Published in The New York Sun,  September 13, 2002
By Andrew Wolf

d and Fran got two nasty surprises in their mailbox last week. The retired educators, who live at the Riverdale section of the Bronx, received two anti-Alan Hevesi litical mailings that were about as negative as one could get.

Both had to do with Mr. Hevesi’s failure to march with the Rev. Al Sharpton after the shooting of Amadou Diallo. To glance at this literature, one would all but think that the professorial Mr. Hevesi fired some of the 41 bullets that killed the African street peddler. Nowhere does the literature tell them for whom they should vote, but simply suggests that the recipient vote against Mr. Hevesi because he is not reliable on what the mailing dubs “minority issues.” Both pieces featured unflattering photos of a very white Mr. Hevesi.
The tiny type stating that the advertising was paid for by “Friends of Bill Mulrow” was the only mention of Mr. Mulrow, the wealthy Westchester businessman who just got blown out of the water by Mr. Hevesi in Tuesday’s Democratic primary for state comptroller.

This practice is known as targeted mailing, something that all of us see some of in every election. I bet that many of my Jewish readers will soon receive mailings from Carl McCall and Governor Pataki highlighting their pro-Israel positions. I would be surprised if Mr. Pataki doesn’t take advantage of his new-found opposition to the use of the Puerto Rican island of Vieques for naval bombing exercises by sending out mail advertising this fact to Latino voters. But Mr. Mulrow’s mailing crossed the line.

This determination of which voter receives which campaign literature is generally based on two factors: last names and census data. But this is not an exact science. Because their last name could be African-American (they are white), and they live in a zip code known for its diversity, Ed and Fran were mistakenly identified as black, and sent the wrong mail.

I can’t say for sure, but my guess is that this strategy was arrived at by Mr. Mulrow’s minority consultants, Roberto Ramirez, the former Bronx County Democratic boss, and Luis Miranda.

Companies affiliated with Messrs. Miranda and Ramirez, such as The Mirram Group, Miranda y Mas, and Global Strategy Group, have been pulling down big fees from Democratic candidates for statewide office. Aside from the now-defeated Mr. Mulrow, they work for Mr. McCall, lieutenant governor nominee Dennis Mehiel, and Attorney General Eliot Spitzer. It has been reported that Mr. Spitzer has been kicking in $10,000 a month, even though he didn’t have a primary and seems to be cruising to a victory in November.
What do the clients of Messrs. Ramirez and Miranda get for their money? At the least, Mr. Ramirez should be able to deliver the Bronx, where he still has extensive influence and where his ally Fernando Ferrer, the former borough president and defeated mayoral candidate, is a folk hero. Mr. Ferrer’s endorsement is, apparently, part of the package.

Last year, Herb Berman, then a City Council member, hired Mr. Miranda for his race for Comptroller, but still lost the Bronx by a three-to-two margin. Mr. Hevesi beat Mr. Mulrow in the Bronx this past Tuesday, despite the Ramirez slash and burn strategy aimed at the minority community.They couldn’t even make this strategy work in a borough where whites constitute only 14% of the total population.
Last year, even the Bronx president, Adolfo Carrion, whose wife was (and some suggest still is) Mr. Ramirez’s law partner, barely squeaked by with only 40% of the Bronx vote, even as he was holding on to Fernando Ferrer’s coattails for dear life.

Another Miranda/Ramirez client this year was a former member of the City Council, Guillermo Linares, who was recruited to try to unseat the Republicans’ favorite target, Senator Eric Schneiderman. The GOP drew a majority Hispanic district for Linares and helped fund the campaign with a fund-raiser at Mayor Bloomberg’s townhouse.

But Mr. Schneiderman crushed Mr. Linares by a two-to-one margin. Mr. Schneiderman even managed to pull down 40% of the vote in Mr. Linares’ old City Council district, which he represented for 10 years before having to step aside due to term limits.

Even Mr. McCall must have been distressed to see the polls a few weeks ago indicating that Andrew Cuomo was favoredby the Hispanic voters Mr. Ramirez was supposed to influence. Perhaps Mr. Cuomo’s early exit spared Ramirez & Co. their biggest embarrassment.

Mr. Ramirez began perfecting his racebased strategy in the attempt to unseat Rep. Eliot Engel in 2000. Mr. Ramirez’s horse in that race was Senator Larry Seabrook, the low octane public official who is best known for managing to take home the most in per diem expenses for time spent at Albany while compiling one of the worst attendance records in the Senate. The old Engel district was 80% minority, yet the congressman won handily.Somuch for the Ramirez race-based formula.

That was the first campaign which linked Messrs. Ramirez and Ferrer to Reverend Sharpton, who also appears to be a part of Mr. Ramirez’s package, having endorsed Messrs. McCall and Mulrow. It has been widely reported that the Bronx Democratic organization’s abandonment of Mr. Engel in 2000, then a 12-year veteran congressman, was the quid-pro-quo for Rev. Sharpton’s endorsement of Mr. Ferrer formayor the following year.

The ties between Rev. Sharpton and Mr. Ramirez are stronger than ever. Mr. Ramirez is now chairman of the Sharpton forPresident Exploratory Committee. According to the Village Voice, Global Strategies, which shares offices with Mirram, will be the pollster for the Sharpton effort, perhaps the only national campaign that in truth has no real need for polling.

Just in case there is a slow election year, Messrs. Ramirez and Miranda and their affiliates are inking a variety of commercial clients. Included among these is said to be George Steinbrenner’s YES Network and the Target department store chain, which is looking at a location on the Bronx-Manhattan border.
Which brings me to a key question.What do all these people expect to get by paying Ramirez and Company? Can Mr. Ramirez really deliver votes? I have yet to see any evidence of this at the polls. Or do candidates and companies fear turning out like Mark Green did last year? Mr. Green, the most bleeding of all bleeding heart liberals, certainly no racist, may well have lost the mayoralty because Ramirez & Co. managed to morph him into one in the minds of many in the minority community.

There’s no evidence Ramirez & Co. can crown kings up in the Bronx, but they’ve proven adept at killing them. Perhaps candidates, especially the white ones, fear that unless they play ball with Mr. Ramirez, they could become the next Mr. Green. Maybe they fear showing up in Ed and Fran’s mailbox.

© 2002 The New York Sun, One, SL, LLC. All rights reserved.

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