What, if any, impact will the World Trade Center disaster and its aftermath—the death toll, the sacrifices made by police, firefighters and other volunteers trying to find living victims in the piles of rubble, the effort to return the city to normality—have on next Tuesday’s mayoral primary?
First of all, the two-week delay in the voting resulting from cancellation of the primary taking place on the same day the terrorists struck could lower the voter turnout even beyond the level expected on Sept. 11.
Consider that the campaign had built up to as high a pitch as could be expected for a race generally regarded as dull and uninteresting, and that the rival camps expected they would be able to pull out their core voters.
But with the interruption and with the lack of campaigning by the four candidates out of respect to the dad and missing, and due to the enormity of the violation of this country’s honor and the shocking loss of life and property, we think it’s improvable that the electorate will be inclined to come out in great numbers.
Secondly, Mayor Rudolph Giuliani was already a major factor in the race because of his popularity and involvement as a target of Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer and as an antagonist of City Comptroller Alan Hevesi. Will he emerge as an even more important factor because his stature grew enormously during the past week as he brought the city through its greatest crisis in history in a steady, even-handed manner?
Besides taking the necessary steps to start the city’s economic engine running again, he also was a morale booster and a true leader at a very dark moment.
Throughout the primary campaign, Ferrer and Hevesi were most antagonistic toward the mayor and Public Advocate Mark Green occasionally leveled criticism at the mayor’s record and style of running the city, so they cannot possibly gain by the mayor’s growth in popularity and respect.
In fact, there could be a backlash against Ferrer because of his "one city" campaign theme, the promise to serve the minority residents and neighborhoods ignored by Giuliani.
The pain of this blow to this city and the thousands dead and injured was shared by every race, color and creed and the massive rescue and recovery effort was also all-inclusive with whites, blacks, Hispanics, Asians and Middle Easterners pitching in.
The only candidate who might possibly benefit from Giuliani’s upsurge in popularity would be City Council Speaker Peter Vallone, who during the primary campaign was considered closest to Giuliani’s record in running the government, but without the mayor’s penchant for antagonizing various constituencies from time to time.
Vallone also had an upfront role in the post—disaster period, appearing at several Giuliani press conferences in his capacity as Council Speaker, at one point explaining the Council’s passage of a home rule message to the state legislature for an $8 billion appropriation to address suffering and to aid in the city’s recovery. This will help families of police, firefighters and other city workers who lost loved ones, and will also be used toward the rebuilding effort. It was approved by the legislature.
We’ve heard countless times since last Tuesday that the day’s events had changed the lives of New Yorkers and the nation forever in one way or another—as a victim or a victim’s relative, as an employee of a former WTC firm, or just as a United States citizen and New York City resident. We may be adding the special effect the disaster might have on the outcome of the primary come next Tuesday evening after 9 p.m.