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31st May

First Published in The New York Sun, May 31, 2005

By Andrew Wolf

If, somehow, Mayor Bloomberg is not re-elected,I believe that the analysts will point to a miscalculation made this past Saturday as one of the key reasons for the loss.
The mayor’s acceptance of the Independence Party line is sure to haunt him. It will hurt him in the Republican primary as his two GOP opponents, former council member Thomas Ognibene and investment banker Steven Shaw will have the opportunity to link Mr. Bloomberg to the wacky Marxist, cultlike politics of Lenora Fulani and her mentor, Frederick Newman. This will be just the tip of the iceberg.

It is easy to say, as top aides to the mayor insist, that Ms. Fulani is just another one of the party’s many thousands of members. But the truth is that it is becoming widely recognized that she is the Independence Party in New York City. Even statewide, it takes near-heroics to overcome Ms. Fulani and Mr. Newman’s domination of the party organization.
The press has already jumped on this issue. The New York Sun, the Daily News, and the Post have weighed in with editorials urging the mayor to drop his party ties, and the Times savaged the Fulani-Newman cult in a long article on Saturday, timed to coincide with the mayor’s acceptance of the Independence Party nod.
Expect Democrats to lay low until they choose a candidate in the primary or runoff. There’s no advantage to beat up the mayor early with what may become one of the top issues that can hurt Mr. Bloomberg in November.
Of course, the hands of the Democrats are not entirely clean. Top Democrats like the presumed nominee for Governor next year, Eliot Spitzer, and Senator Schumer are already deeply ensnared by their previous involvement with the party.
I’m not quite sure why, since neither of them even remotely needed the Independence Party ballot line to win reelection.
Democrats will also hold back since there is still time for the mayor to legally reject the Independence Party nod until after designating petitions are filed, a couple of months down the road.
In the last election, in 2001, the Independence Party line was said to provide the mayor the margin of victory
— about 60,000 votes.This assumes, of course, that none of those voters would have voted for Mr. Bloomberg on the Republican line, a premise I don’t accept. New Yorkers have a long history of voting for the man and not the party.
This time around, with all of the negative publicity that Ms. Fulani’s involvement has received and will undoubtedly continue to receive in the months ahead, it simply isn’t all that clear that whatever vote Mr. Bloomberg receives on the Independence Party’s ballot line “C” won’t be offset with a loss of support overall.
What is clear, at least to me, is that this was a lost opportunity for Mr. Bloomberg to show political courage, the one trait voters most appreciate.
Was it really news last week when the Bronx Democratic organization threw its support behind Fernando Ferrer? At this “dog bites man” event, there was not a single surprise, not a single endorsement that in any way expands Mr. Ferrer’s base.
A few days earlier, Mr. Ferrer did receive a welcome endorsement, this from a congressman who splits his loyalties between the Bronx and Queens. Rep. Joseph Crowley came down on the Bronx side of Long Island Sound by announcing his allegiance to Mr. Ferrer.
Although Mr. Crowley is a protégé of Queens County Democratic Leader Thomas Manton, who has thrown the support of his organization behind the speaker of the City Council, Gifford Miller, Mr. Crowley has decided to take the long view.
His district already has a Hispanic majority and is growing more Hispanic by the day.
Last year, Mr. Crowley nearly faced a challenge from Queens Council Member Hiram Monserrate, who ultimately backed away, but it is just a matter of time before Mr. Crowley faces a Hispanic opponent.
Whether Mr. Ferrer wins or loses now, Mr.Crowley would like to be in a position to win the support of this key Hispanic politico sometime in the near future.
Mr. Crowley faces a situation much like the one faced by Congressman Eliot Engel a decade ago, which is why he should watch his back.
As Mr. Engel watched the black population of his district grow, he worked tirelessly to strengthen his position among blacks, going so far as to serve as a campaign “surrogate” for Mayor Dinkins at synagogues in Riverdale, a difficult position for a Jewish politician post-Crown Heights. And just to make sure his Hispanic flank was covered, Mr. Engel endorsed Mr. Ferrer’s 1997 bid for mayor.
Of course, this didn’t help one bit when Mr. Engel was finally challenged by a black candidate, Larry Seabrook, in 2000. Mr. Ferrer’s key ally, Roberto Ramirez, backed Mr. Seabrook in a deal that assured Mr. Ferrer of the endorsement of the Reverend Alford Sharpton in the mayoral race the following year. And the blacks that Mr. Engel worked so hard to win over stood with his opponent.
When the dust cleared, Mr. Engel survived, but he learned that in politics, today’s favors are not always reciprocated tomorrow.

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

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