Jewish World Review Oct. 16, 2001 / 29 Tishrei, 5762

Jules Witcover

Jules Witcover
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Consumer Reports

New York mayor's race: What kind of experience? -- NOW that New York City Public Advocate Mark Green has won the Democratic mayoral primary, New Yorkers will have a choice of two kinds of experience - Green's in government and Republican nominee Michael Bloomberg's in business and high finance - in deciding which of them should take over the city's recovery and rebuilding task.

Republican Mayor Rudy Giuliani is barred by law from a third term. His efforts to have the limit changed or get a three-month extension of his term to stay on the cleanup job muddied the Democratic primary runoff Green finally won last Thursday over Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer. Green's agreement to the extension was widely criticized as an attempt to cash in on Giuliani's popularity, but in the end he narrowly beat Ferrer, 52 percent to 48.

As the Democratic nominee, Green has an impressive resume of governmental service to offer as a longtime liberal activist in consumer matters. In his job as public advocate, the second highest elective citywide office, he is first in line of succession if for some reason the mayoralty were to become vacant.

Bloomberg has never run for public office before and has no government service, but has built a personal fortune in the Bloomberg media empire. Like Green, he also was a Democrat until he apparently decided the competition was too tough in the four-candidate Democratic primary field, and became a Republican. He won the GOP primary easily, throwing as much as $20 million of his own money into the race.

Like the primary that was first postponed and then dominated by the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, the abbreviated general election campaign for Nov. 6 will obviously be dominated by claims from Green and Bloomberg that each man's kind of experience is best suited to rebuild New York's financial district.

A poll earlier this month by Marist College Institute for 'Public Opinion showed both Green and Ferrer beating Bloomberg handily, but Bloomberg advisers acknowledged before the Democratic primary that they would prefer running against Ferrer. The reason was the very visible endorsement of Ferrer by controversial black leader Al Sharpton, whom the Bloomberg advisers believed would drive white voters to support their candidate.

Now, however, Sharpton is out of the equation and Green is expected to pick up much of the organized labor and black backing that went to Ferrer in the primary runoff. New York is an overwhelmingly Democratic city, but that didn't prevent Republican Giuliani from defeating David Dinkins, the city's first black mayor, in 1993 and winning re-election in 1997.

Giuliani won his first term when crime in the city was a dominant issue, enabling him to parlay his record as a tough prosecutor into the mayor's job. With the recovery and rebuilding of the city after the terrorist attacks now the prime issue, Bloomberg's aides are touting his record as a business builder and manager to claim he is comparably suited to today's challenge.

Although the mayoral campaign will last less than four weeks, Bloomberg has a barrel of money to throw into it and is committed to spend freely on television advertising between now and Nov. 6. Green said before the primary he had $3 million left and expected to double it for the contest against Bloomberg. His ad

vantage is he is much better known and has a strong party organization behind him, which Bloomberg doesn't. Green made a strong start for the Nov. 6 election by laying out during the primary runoff a comprehensive plan for putting the city back on its feet. It calls for tighter security, creation of a new emergency redevelopment authority, help for displaced firms and, most of all, an aggressive push for recovery aid from Washington.

This plan provided Green with debate ammunition against Ferrer's pre-Sept. 11 championing of more help for "the other New York," taken to mean the city's minority communities. In the wake of the terrorist attacks, Green argued that what was needed was one unified city, and that he had the best plan to advance it.

For Bloomberg to have a chance, he must make the case that his entrepreneurial experience makes him the man for the job. In times of crisis, however, voters usually don't want to gamble on a political novice.

Comment on JWR contributor Jules Witcover's column by clicking here.

10/15/01: New York: Making a comeback
10/11/01: Giuliani: Fly in the election ointment
10/08/01: One or two New Yorks?
10/05/01: Providing your own security
10/01/01: Getting back to 'normal'
09/28/01: Muzzling the Voice Of America
09/26/01: Bush's transformation
09/24/01: Using a tragedy for a federal bailout
09/21/01: A view of tragedy at home from abroad
09/14/01: Script for AlGore's coming-out party
08/31/01: Scandal and privacy in politics
08/24/01: On replacing Helms
08/22/01: Politics takes a summer holiday
08/15/01: The resurfacing of AlGore
08/13/01: You can go home again
08/10/01: Governors' Conference drought
08/08/01: Governors defend their turf
08/06/01: New Bush muscle with congress
08/03/01: America's benign neglect
07/30/01: Where is the fear factor?
07/26/01: Dubya, Nancy Reagan and the Pope
07/23/01: Bush's congressional dilemma
07/19/01: Katharine Graham, giant
07/11/01: Finessing election reform
07/09/01: Listening to, and watching, Ashcroft
07/06/01: New comedian in the House (of Representatives)
06/27/01: Spinning Campaign Finance Reform's latest 'headway'
06/25/01: When Dubya says 'the check is in the mail,' you can believe him
06/22/01: The push on patients' rights
06/20/01: If you can't trust historians, how can you trust history?
06/18/01: World Refugee Day
06/13/01: Remembering 'Hubert'
06/11/01: Ventura faces government shutdown
06/06/01: McCain doth protest too much
06/04/01: Memo to the Bush daughters
05/30/01: Missing in action: Democratic outrage
05/30/01: Honoring World War II vets
05/23/01: Lauding the Nixon pardon
05/21/01: Messin' with McCain
05/18/01: A great movie plot
05/16/01: The level of public sensibility these days
05/14/01: "I am Al Gore. I used to be the next president of the United States"

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