‘Let’s Get Ready To Rumble’—Mayoral And City Council Races Top Ballot This Year
The year just ended provided a head start for several Democratic hopefuls wanting to challenge incumbent Mayor Michael Bloomberg, but the real race will now begin in earnest with the primaries and general election in clear sight.
Likewise, the 2006 race for governor is one year closer and whereas Democratic state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer is a clear favorite for his party’s nomination, the Republican picture is fuzzy as incumbent Governor George Pataki and former mayor Rudy Giuliani, the two strongest GOP candidates appear to be looking beyond 2006 to 2008 and the election of a new president of the United States.
On the local scene this year, the mayoral and other citywide contests for public advocate and comptroller will get competition for news space and attention from the 51 city councilmembers who are up for re-election to their second and final four-year terms under term limits. These contests will generate many challenges, but the incumbents appear to be worthy of their status as favorites.
Also up for re-election this year is Queens Borough President Helen Marshall and the four other borough presidents. Like the incumbents for all the other citywide offices, the borough president will be running for re-election to another and final four-year term.
It didn’t take long for the mayoral post to start percolating after the start of the New Year as Bloomberg won the endorsement of an influential black leader, the Reverend Floyd Flake, the former congressmember from Southeast Queens.
Flake gave the mayor good marks in education and for treating the various ethnic groups in the city fairly.
It is not known how much Flake’s endorsement will affect the level of support for the mayor among black voters, who have shown only moderate enthusiasm for him in public opinion polls.
The major Democratic contenders against the mayor are former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer, the front runner in most mayoral polls, Council Speaker Gifford Miller and Congressmember Anthony Weiner (Queens/Brooklyn). Others in the field are Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields and Brooklyn Councilmember Charles Barron, both black.
Although Miller lacks the name recognition which Ferrer possesses, he will have the means to try to increase it in the outer boroughs with a campaign bankroll close to $6 million.
Weiner, meanwhile, will have to split his time between the mayoral campaign and Washington, where Democrats will have their hands full grappling with majority Republicans over spending issues.
At the moment, Weiner is preparing to reintroduce two provisions which the Republicans deleted from the final intelligence bill, passed in 2004. Both previously had bipartisan support, or so the Dems believed.
One would have allowed localities such as New York City to use homeland security funds to pay police officers’ overtime; the second would have directed homeland security funds to cities which face the greatest danger from terrorists.
Weiner told reporters, “There are going to be a dozen different skirmishes on things that feel out of the intelligence bill at the last minute. And the outcome will mean a lot of money for New York City, one way or the other.”
In the council races, incumbents appear to be well prepared to go before the voters. For instance, Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. (D–Astoria) has been aggressively pursuing tougher laws against DWI drivers who kill or seriously injure someone. He is also seeking to provide communities with more information about pedophiles who are released from jail.
Councilmember Eric Gioia (D–Long Island City), as chair of the Committee on Oversight and Investigations, has conducted probes which have revealed weaknesses in several key areas dealing with consumers.
In budget matters, Councilmember David Weprin (D–Hollis) has been responsible for negotiating budgets with the Bloomberg administration, and Councilmember Tony Avella (D–Bayside) has sponsored many important zoning changes aimed at protecting the character of residential areas.
In coming columns, we will review other councilmembers’ activities during their first four years in office. We will also report on opposition candidates and where they stand on the issues.
As far as the borough president’s race is concerned, to date we have not heard about any opposition to incumbent Helen Marshall.
GOV MAY SEEK 4TH TERM: On the statewide scene, after keeping his long-range plans much to himself, Pataki recently stated he is thinking about a fourth term as governor, thereby staying away from challenging incumbent U.S. Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton (D) when she seeks re-election in 2006.
From present appearances, this would set up a fight between the governor and Democratic front-runner Eliot Spitzer. Unless the governor can rebuild his stature, which has taken a few hits recently, he could be in for a rough ride.
HOW ABOUT RUDY?: It looks like the next election on Giuliani’s schedule will be for president in 2008. That will give him lots of time to repair any damage done by the Bernard Kerik fiasco, which will surely be used against him in any campaign. The Kerik affair had to strain Giuliani’s relations with President Bush. We feel strongly that the president will now be supporting his brother, Florida Governor Jeb Bush, when the 2008 election rolls around.
Jeb Bush made an inspection tour of tsunami-ravaged South Asia over the weekend with Secretary of State Colin Powell.