2001-05-23 / Political Page

Manton Choice Dominates Talk At Dem Dinner

By John Toscano

Manton Choice Dominates
Talk At Dem Dinner

Queens Democratic leader Thomas Manton’s endorsement of City Comptroller Alan Hevesi, bypassing Council Speaker Peter Vallone, sparked an avalanche of talk and conjecture at last Thursday night’s Democratic Party dinner, with two main themes emerging from the heated discourse.

One held that Manton had merely followed his best political instincts in deciding to back Hevesi, being guided by results from public and private polls, and from the expectation that Hevesi will fall heir to strong labor support, thus making him a stronger candidate than Vallone.

The other was that Manton had struck a deal with Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver to give Hevesi the endorsement in return for Silver’s aid in saving a Queens Congressional seat in upcoming reapportionment in the wake of Census 2000 results.

Vallone’s supporters and sources in his campaign don’t buy the first scenario, pointing out that both Hevesi and Vallone are trailing Public Advocate Mark Green and Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer. As for labor support, Vallone backers said it’s still anybody’s guess which way the unions will go, although there are strong signs that the United Federation of Teachers (UFT) will shortly jump on Hevesi’s bandwagon.

As to the rumored Manton–Silver deal, Manton said emphatically in a telephone interview: "Absolute nonsense—it in no way figured in my decision—totally untrue."

Another major point raised in discussions with partisans in both camps was whether Manton’s close friendship with Vallone for the past 30 years, both private and political, obligated him to shift his support to the Astoria lawmaker.

Vallone’s backers noted the two have been neighbors in Astoria for many years, that they came into the Council at the same time and that Vallone, as Speaker, was instrumental in having Manton chosen as successor to the late Donald Manes.

While Manton acknowledged Vallone’s support, he said "lots of people were involved in my becoming leader." He indicated there had been payback over the past 15 years by way of mutual support and patronage.

"I was torn between friendship and what I perceive to be the practicalities of the mayoral race," Manton declared.

As to union endorsements, Manton said "the unions seem to be leaning toward Alan, while Peter is not even a fall-back position for them."

As for the reported Manton–Silver deal, Vallone’s supporters pointed out that Silver, as Assembly Speaker and the most powerful Democrat in the state, will have as much control as Governor George Pataki and Republican Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno over what the final new legislative district lines will be.

Silver also is supporting Hevesi; who served as Majority leader under Silver for several years while in the Assembly before becoming comptroller. Their relationship was very amicable.

Silver also has a history of bad blood with Vallone dating back to Vallone’s gubernatorial bid three years ago. Silver, of Manhattan, undermined Manton’s efforts to get a consensus among city and state Dem leaders to give Vallone the nomination. At the convention, he forced Vallone to go into a costly primary.

The combination of these factors led Manton to make the deal, they said.

But it will backfire, they added. In the primary voting, Vallone’s proponents say, Hevesi and Green will split their vote, and Vallone will also pull more votes than Hevesi, setting up a Green–Vallone runoff.

Vallone strategists feel that his strong support among Queens Democrats had to be suppressed as Manton brought pressure to ensure Hevesi would win the party’s designation.

As the campaign plays out, they believe, the Vallone supporters will come back to him. They pointed out that Manton and Hevesi had already lost support in southeast Queens because of discontent over their endorsement of Councilmember Helen Marshall (D–East Elmhurst) for borough president over Assemblymember Audrey Pheffer (D-Rockaways).

Pheffer’s supporters, talking off the record, charged Manton had reneged on a promise to endorse Pheffer, who reportedly also had Borough President Claire Shulman’s support. Manton did it at Hevesi’s behest, they said, because he felt Marshall could help win him votes in black communities.

Both Manton and Hevesi labeled the Marshall report untrue. Marshall did not return a call seeking comment.

So with one move, albeit the most jarring one of his political career, the usually easygoing Manton swung the focus of the campaign toward Queens.

The dinner at Antun’s at $300-a-ticket was well attended, although the absence of some Vallone backers was noted. Both Vallone and Hevesi attended briefly and gave brief talks.

Nolan, Manton Make Peace:

Assemblymember Catherine Nolan (D–Ridgewood) got a pleasant surprise at her fundraiser last Thursday night at Dazie’s Restaurant in Sunnyside—Queens. Dem chairman Thomas Manton and Congressmember Joseph Crowley (D–Queens/ Bronx) showed up to wish her well. It marked the end of a three-year "we’re not speaking" period for the trio. Also present to smooth things over was Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D–Manhattan), who also has had major disputes with Manton and Crowley over the past several years.

About three years ago, Manton timed resigning his Congressional seat so that a primary to choose his replacement couldn’t be held. He then chose Crowley to succeed him; angering Nolan and City Councilmembers Walter McCaffrey (D–Woodside) and John Sabini (D–Jackson Heights).

They vowed to challenge Crowley when he ran for reelection last year, but their plans didn’t pan out. Manton did oppose Nolan’s reelection bid, giving her some anxious moments, but she won anyway.

Speaking of their drop-in at her fundraiser, Nolan said she was very happy that the two, to whom she referred as Tom and Joe, stopped by. "It was a nice gesture and everybody can go forward from here, she said.

BLOOMBERG ENDORSED: Financial media mogul Michael Bloomberg will embarrass a lot of Republican leaders if he doesn’t run for mayor. although he’s made several moves toward that end, he hasn’t formally announced his candidacy. But the GOP county organizations in Queens, Manhattan and Staten Island have now officially voted to make him the party’s choice in this year’s election. He faces a possible primary from Herman Badillo and opposition from one of four Democratic nomination hopefuls in November.

All of the mayoral wannabes marched in last Sunday’s Salute to Israel Parade in Manhattan, but Bloomberg wasn’t alongside Mayor Rudolph Giuliani—Council Speaker Peter Vallone and Badillo were.

"They chose to march with me," the mayor explained, saying Bloomberg could have marched also had he chosen to do so.

‘MEET THE MAYOR:’ Giuliani will hold another in his series of Town Hall meetings next Wednesday, May 30, at 8 p.m. at Grover Cleveland H.S. 2127 Himrod St. between Tonsor Street and Grandview Avenue, Ridgewood.

Members of Giuliani’s staff will be present to answer questions on community issues and problems. The school site is wheelchair accessible and requests for assistance can be made to the Mayor’s Community assistance Unit at (212) 788-7418. For more information, call (212) 669-7040 or check Channel 74 for scheduling time.

CATSIMATIDIS HELPS PATAKI: John Catsimatidis, a major supermarket owner, hasn’t endorsed Governor George Pataki for reelection next year, but nevertheless held a fundraiser for the governor at his Fifth Avenue apartment last week. Catsimatidis, a Democrat, said he did it because he likes the governor." He’s a decent guy." As for Democratic gubernatorial hopefuls Comptroller Carl McCall and Andrew Cuomo, Catsimatidis said he’s not committed to either one."

LEFFLER BACKS PARKS $: Calling Queens’ parks a great asset, Councilmember Sheldon Leffler (D–Queens Village), now running for borough president, said he supports the movement to get 0.1 percent of the city’s budget, about $400 million, allocated for citywide parks operations. Presently, there’s $190.4 million in the mayor’s budgets for parks.

Leffler said volunteers and private sector money are a big help, but are not distributed evenly throughout the five boroughs. He said he would push for additional parks funds at budget hearings.

NEW DEM CLUB: Jim Dillon reports he has dropped out of the 26th Council District (Woodside/Sunnyside) race. He also says he and some other local Dems have formed the Justice William Brennan Democratic Club in the Long Island City area.

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