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19th April
2005

First Published in The New York Sun, April 19 , 2005

By Andrew Wolf

Mayor Bloomberg is faced with a difficult and all-too-predictable problem. How does he justify his association with the New York State Independence Party as long as the party is run by Lenora Fulani? Ms. Fulani’s troublesome presence on the New York political scene is nothing new, but her clever coopting of the party that emerged from the Ross Perot campaign of 1992 and the deep pockets of upstate businessman Thomas Golisano has made her a real political power in New York State.

The remarks that New York 1’s Dominic Carter so ably confronted her with last week are nothing new. She and Fred Newman,her long-time “mentor,” have been flirting with anti-Semitism on the left and right for years. They have been accused of running a cult, the East Side Institute for Short Term Psychotherapy, which is said to advocate political activism as a cure for mental illness.
They have been linked to Libya’s Muammar Gadhafi,Black Muslim leader Minister Louis Farrakhan, the Reverend Alford Sharpton, and even Patrick Buchanan,a frequent critic of Israel from the right side of the political spectrum.

Ms. Fulani’s response to Mr. Carter’s persistent questioning last week only served to validate the worst fears about what she stands for. She is on the fringe of the fringe politically, yet has the state’s leading politicians eating out of her hand.

The headlines and editorials will not and should not stop until our political elite realizes that the price of supporting Ms. Fulani and her party is greater than the benefit. It is not just Mr. Bloomberg who needs to re-evaluate his involvement with this crew. Governor Pataki, Senator Schumer, and Attorney General Spitzer have also been similarly compromised. It is time for them to just say no. If it is no longer politically acceptable to do business with Ms. Fulani, the Independence Party will slip quickly and quietly into the history books.

There is historic precedent for this. During the 1930s, the organized labor movement in New York established a political party, the American Labor Party, to support their goals by promoting the New Deal policies of the Roosevelt administration.The ALP quickly became a major power, latching onto not just the Democratic administration in Washington,but also FDR’s local Republican ally, Mayor LaGuardia.
The ALP was run by an official of the hatter’s union named Alex Rose. Rose became a key player in New York politics for 40 years.

How powerful was the ALP? Consider this: In 1937, Mayor LaGuardia received nearly 483,000 votes on the ALP line. Mayor Bloomberg received fewer than 60,000 votes on Ms. Fulani’s Independence Party line four years ago.

Despite this huge vote-getting power, within a decade the party began a rapid decline.The reason was that, like the Independence Party, the party became dominated by outside extremists, in this case communists. New York’s anti-communist labor leaders such as David Dubinsky and Jacob Potofsky, along with Rose, abandoned the ALP and created the Liberal Party. Within 10 years, the ALP disappeared, while the Liberal Party thrived for more than half a century, 30 of those years under Alex Rose’s skillful leadership.

It was through the Liberal Party that Republicans such as John Lindsay and Rudolph Giuliani found support among those uncomfortable to vote Republican in a general election.

An exodus from support of the Independence Party is exactly the strategy that should be followed today, and Mr. Bloomberg needs the strength of character to lead the way. If he were to say that he could no longer accept the support of the party so long as Ms. Fulani and company were involved, it would send a powerful message that would reverberate throughout the body politic — what Democrat, or for that matter Republican, would not pay heed to the most powerful message in politics — courage?

There are alternatives for a secondor even third-ballot home for Mr. Bloomberg, including a revival of the Liberal Party under the principled and the respected former Parks Commissioner Henry Stern. That’s a place where Mr. Bloomberg’s dollars could be better spent than continuing to support Ms. Fulani with her wacky and dangerous agenda.

***
The surprise self-injection of the name of the former Nebraska senator, Robert Kerrey, now the president of New School University, as a possible Democratic mayoral hopeful is a reflection of the weakness of the presumed Democratic front-runner, Fer
nando Ferrer. Democratic Party leaders are openly fretting over the Ferrer free fall and could entertain a new candidacy — although Mr. Kerrey would appear the longest of long shots. Almost exactly 28 years ago, in 1977, Governor Carey drafted his then obscure secretary of state, Mario Cuomo, to run in a crowded field for mayor, a field that included the then-incumbent mayor, Abraham Beame, Rep. Bella Abzug, Rep. Herman Badillo, and the Manhattan borough president, Percy Sutton.
Despite the efforts of Mr. Carey, Mr. Cuomo and all the other big names lost to a dark horse — a quirky congressman named Edward Koch (which Anthony Weiner will not let us forget). But Mr. Cuomo did finish second, proof that a last-minute candidacy is possible, if not probable.

In 1973 the surprise last-minute announcement by Judge Brendan Byrne that he was running for governor of New Jersey resulted in a victory that nobody could foresee.
Robert Kerrey? The odds are long, but this is a weak field.
***
Poor Fernando Ferrer. Even his closest associates now dismiss his chances to become Gotham’s next mayor. In an interview published last Wednesday in the Israeli newspaper, Ha’aretz,Mr. Ferrer’s successor at Bronx Borough Hall, Adolfo Carrion, declared to reporter Shlomo Shamir, “I am planning to run for mayor in the 2009 election.”

This is a clear sign that Mr. Carrion does not expect his close ally, Mr. Ferrer, to prevail in this year’s contest and run for re-election in 2009. Or, for that matter, make a fourth bid for Gracie Mansion.

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

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