2001-10-03 / Political Page

Queens Support Is Key To Green’s Chances

BY JOHN TOSCANO

Having lost their bids to become the city’s next mayor, City Council Speaker Peter Vallone and Comptroller Alan Hevesi, two veteran Queens pols, have landed on opposite sides in the mayoral runoff between Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer and Public Advocate Mark Green Oct. 11.

Vallone, who soundly defeated Hevesi in their private one-on-one contest in last Tuesday’s balloting, on the day after the election promptly endorsed Ferrer, explaining he had backed Ferrer on several previous occasions.

Hevesi endorsed Green yesterday after Queens Democratic leader Thomas Manton and many local Democratic leaders and lawmakers, including Borough President Claire Shulman, had announced their support for the Public Advocate in the days following the primary election.

Manton and the other Democrats had supported Hevesi in the primary. The only Ferrer backers in the primary had been Assemblymember Catherine Nolan (D–Ridgewood) and Councilmember Walter McCaffrey (D–Woodside). Former Congressmember Geraldine Ferraro was also an early supporter of the Bronx borough president.

Green’s endorsement by Manton and much of the Queens Democratic organization provides the Public Advocate with the support he needs to make it a horse race against Ferrer.

Ferrer has momentum from the primary voting, in which he surged to overtake Green, who had led in every poll conducted since last November up to just before the primary. Ferrer’s forces were successful in getting to the polls his natural Hispanic constituency and black voters spurred on by Al Sharpton and other black leaders. Green had some black support, but far too little to keep pace with Ferrer in the overall voting.

Ferrer is planning and hoping for a similar turnout in the runoff next Thursday and Green’s only hope is to mobilize white voters in Manhattan, Queens and Staten Island to come out in droves for him. Ironically, for the liberal Public Advocate this is the same constituency that Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, a Republican, attracted to get elected twice.

A good part of Green’s hopes, therefore, depend on Manton and Michael Reich, who supervises the Dem organization campaign army of volunteers, getting out the vote for the runoff.

Reich, the party’s executive secretary, said on the night of the primary that the organization’s voter pullout drive had 750 volunteers at work for Borough President winner Helen Marshall and Democratic City Council candidates, most of whom prevailed in local races.

Getting these forces keyed up for a second major effort in 15 days is an enormous challenge, but one of which Reich is capable. The Flushing attorney relishes the campaign work and has been improving on it steadily over the span of years since Manton became the party leader in the late 1980s. Reich’s first lieutenant, Frank Bolz, also figures prominently in the team’s success.

The Manton–Reich team helped to elect a borough president and the majority of the borough’s 14 councilmembers on primary day. However, they were powerless to get Hevesi enough votes to compete against Green, Ferrer and Vallone.

Unofficially, Hevesi garnered 86,529 votes citywide, compared to Vallone’s 142,690. There was no breakdown of their respective Queens totals, but it seems safe to assume Vallone defeated Hevesi. Manton and the Democratic leadership team are entitled to take bragging rights in Queens.

Together, Vallone and Hevesi pulled roughly 32 percent of the mayoral vote, one percent more than Green received to qualify for the runoff. Theoretically, based on these loose return totals, a case could be made that a unity candidate (more Vallone than Hevesi) could have made a difference for Queens.

Why it happened to these two uniquely experienced and qualified candidates, in our estimation both preferable by far to either Green or Ferrer, can only be traced to the Hispanic–black coalition that emerged for Ferrer and the moderate black support for Green to supplement his core Manhattan liberal constituency.

But Hevesi hurt himself badly anyway with a woefully misdirected and confused campaign that was completely out of character with Hevesi’s previous election efforts. It was plain suicide for the city’s chief fiscal officer to engage in tacky attempts to gain a financial advantage over his opponents, especially with a far campaign finance practices law in effect.

It appeared that Vallone’s campaign was well planned and well executed. All along, we felt the Astoria pol should have positioned himself clearly and unmistakably as the "Rudy" candidate to take advantage of the mayor’s favorable popularity in white conservative areas. But hindsight never won an election, so why did we mention that at all? Possibly because we have such high regard for Vallone, as decent and as capable a man ever to be found in or out of politics.

IN FATHER’S FOOTSTEPS: The primary elections assured that there’s an excellent chance that there will still be a Vallone in the City Council next year as Peter Vallone Jr. became the Democratic candidate to succeed his father in the 22nd Council District seat in the Nov. 6 general elections.

Young Vallone swamped his chief opponent John Ciafone, by a margin of roughly five to three, 56 percent to 34 percent. The impressive first-time-out showing makes him a strong favorite against Sandra Vassos (R–C), Ciafone (Liberal) and Gerald F. Kann (Green) in the general election.

Vallone senior served almost three decades in the council, the last dozen or so as Council Speaker.

BLOOMBERG’S VOICE MAIL IDEA: Because of the special dangers to schoolchildren posed by emergencies such as the World Trade Center disaster, Republican mayoral candidate Michael Bloomberg has proposed a voice mail system for parents and guardians of the city’s 1.1 million public schoolchildren.

Bloomberg said the Board of Education has had some success with its parents’ hotline, "but the technology exists for a voice mail system that would be much more efficient and instantly give parents the information they need about their child in any language they choose in a single phone call. Businesses around the world use similar systems and this would be able to alleviate parents’ fears and keep them up to date on their child’s progress in a simple, cost-effective way."

Last Saturday, Bloomberg addressed and installed new members of the Women’s Republican Club of Queens at Neiderstein’s Restaurant in Middle Village.

GENNARO ON HIS VICTORY: Fresh from his victory over Dem organization candidate Barry Grodenchik and David Reich in the 24th Council District Democratic primary, James Gennaro declared, "The voters rejected the political machine and politics as usual and overwhelmingly supported our grassroots campaign. We had the best message, we worked the hardest to deliver our message, and we captured the hearts and minds of the people."

Former Mayor Edward I. Koch, who endorsed Gennaro, said, "Leaders of Jim’s caliber are rare and are sorely needed at this critical time in our history."

CANDIDATE FORUM: A candidates night will be held for 20th City Council District candidates in Flushing on Oct. 16 at 7:30 p.m. by the Flushing Forum for the Development of Political Leaders at the Macedonia Methodist Episcopal Church, 37-27 Union St., Flushing.

ENDORSE FERRER: James J. Dillon and the Justice William Brennan Democratic Club in Long Island City have endorsed Fernando Ferrer for mayor.


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