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4th November

First Published in The New York Sun, November 4, 2005

By Andrew Wolf

Even before what seems to surely be an early concession speech Tuesday night by Fernando Ferrer, the blame game among the Democrats has begun. The party with a 5-to-1 voter enrollment edge is poised to lose its fourth straight mayoral election. This will mark the longest period in the city’s history that the Democrats have been shut out of City Hall. Blame needs to be assigned, but you can be sure that Mr. Ferrer and his handlers will point fingers at everyone but themselves.

Some of the anger will be aimed at those fellow Democrats, like the president of Brooklyn, Marty Markowitz, and Council Members Eva Moskowitz and Margarita Lopez who, grounded in reality, understand that Mayor Bloomberg is more likely to deliver a better run municipal government than Mr. Ferrer.
Then there is the visible cadre of Democrats who, while supporting Mr. Ferrer nominally, will gladly pose for a picture with the mayor,or shake his hand or cut a ribbon with him. They will also be the targets of Mr. Ferrer’s ire, albeit at a much lower decibel level.

But who can blame them for being eager to continue their relationship with a mayor who may be a Republican,but has delivered to them policies more reminiscent of recent Democratic mayors than those of the Giuliani administration? As Tom Ognibene would remind us, Mr. Bloomberg has hired more Democrats to staff his administration than members of his own Republican party.

Then there will be recriminations against those whose loyalty to the Ferrer campaign seems hard to question but who failed to deliver on Election Day. In Mr. Ferrer’s home borough of the Bronx, two factions appear to be competing for control of the party leadership after the election.

There is already a whispering campaign aimed at Assemblyman Jose Rivera, now the Bronx County Democratic leader.Forces loyal to the president of the Bronx,Adolfo Carrion,suggest that if the Ferrer vote in the Bronx doesn’t meet expectations, a change in leadership may be in order.Those expectations are for a Ferrer romp in his home borough.Polls suggest that the mayor is closing in on Mr. Ferrer, which is not good news for Mr. Rivera.

But Mr. Carrion is playing a duplicitous game.The Northwest Bronx Democratic Alliance, a tiny Riverdale-based political club that Mr. Carrion is thought to control (his former campaign treasurer, Anthony Perez Cassino, is the club’s president),has endorsed Mr.Bloomberg. Carrion campaign mailings received by Bronx voters this week do not mention his running mate, Mr. Ferrer. Since Mr. Carrion has no visible opposition, an appeal to vote the entire Democratic ticket — led by Mr. Ferrer — would seem to be appropriate. But that doesn’t serve Mr. Carrion’s interests.

Mr. Bloomberg compliments Mr. Carrion, frequently, for better leadership on Bronx economic issues than Mr. Ferrer, his predecessor in borough hall. The term-limited Mr. Carrion, like another nominal Ferrer supporter, Comptroller William Thompson,has his eyes on 2009. A Ferrer victory today shuts the door on their ambitions four years from now.

But the largest blame for the Democratic defeat will go to Mr. Bloomberg’s checkbook, the daily refrain from Team Ferrer since he narrowly won the party’s nomination nearly two months ago.

Of course, if money were everything, Ronald Lauder could, ironically, now be running for his fifth term as mayor today. But he could not defeat Rudolph Giuliani in the 1989 Republican primary despite outspending the former prosecutor by 25 to 1,an even greater disparity than the one between the mayor and Mr. Ferrer this year.

That Mr. Bloomberg would outspend Mr. Ferrer, or any other opponent, was certain from the beginning. But who could have predicted just how flat the Ferrer fund raising effort has turned out to be? Back in March, the New York Times was treated to an inadvertent recording of a Ferrer strategy session left on a reporter’s voicemail.

Much of the Ferrer game plan has indeed followed the outline set forth in that conversation, which included Mr. Ferrer’s top campaign aide, Roberto Ramirez, and associates, who disclosed the plans for what they termed the “World Series,” the race against Mr. Bloomberg.The plan was to use the mayor’s $7-million contribution to the Republican convention committee as the rationale for a national fund-raising effort among angry Democrats seeking retribution for President Bush’s reelection victory. Mr. Ramirez, through whose companies much of Mr. Ferrer’s campaign money flows, agreed with an aide who observed that “the sky’s the limit,” for funding the Ferrer campaign.

If the sky is the limit, then it surely must be falling,since Mr.Ferrer lags well behind the fund raising efforts of Mark Green four years ago. Loyal Democrats across the country, it turns out, want a better rationale than just partisan venom when asked to open their wallets.

Yet, come Wednesday morning, I suspect New Yorkers will not hear Mr. Ramirez tell Mr. Ferrer, “The fault, dear Fernando, lies not in our stars, but in ourselves.”

© 2005 The New York Sun, One, SL, LLC. All rights reserved.

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