2005-04-27 / Political Page

Freddy’s Flubs Could Be A Fatal Distraction, As In Kerry’s Failed Prez Bid

There is an eerie similarity between the early stages of the presidential campaign of U.S. Senator John Kerry last year and Fernando Ferrer’s mayoral run this year.

Kerry’s campaign ended in defeat, in no small part because the attacks on his war service by supporters of President George W. Bush prevented the Democratic standard bearer from building momentum until the late stages of the presidential campaign. Every time Kerry seemed to be settling into a routine of effective rallies against his opponent, the charges growing out of his Vietnam war service, were resurrected, knocking him off stride.

The same thing seems to be happening to Ferrer, the Democratic frontrunner for his party’s nomination and also for his projected race against Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

About a month ago, Ferrer stated in a talk to a police officers’ organization that the shooting and death of Amadou Diallo by five police officers several years ago was not a crime.

The remark, predictably, set off a chorus of criticism among blacks, both those in public life and elsewhere. Then last week, one of Ferrer’s primary opponents, C. Virginia Fields, broke with Ferrer over the remark. Fields, the only black in the Democratic primary field, had had an understanding with Ferrer, the only Hispanic in the field, that they would not attack each other in order to prevent any schism from developing between the two large minority groups and shatter the unity the eventual Democratic candidate must have to defeat incumbent Mayor Michael Bloomberg in November.

Last week, Ferrer, who still has not put the Diallo fiasco behind him, made another blunder when he announced a proposal to revive the stock transfer tax. Not only did the proposal not fly—it fell like a ton of bricks. Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who would have to lead the fight in Albany to get the tax passed, came out against it, as did Ferrer’s primary opponents: Fields, Council Speaker Gifford Miller and Congressmember Anthony Weiner.

Compounding Ferrer’s troubles, he erred in stating the rationale for the tax. He had said that Bloomberg had failed to find adequate education funding, so he proposed the stock transfer tax proceeds would go to eduction because the city had not complied with a court order to pay for part of the $5.6 billion a year it is to receive from the schools funding the state must pay to New York City.

Actually, the court has ordered the state to pay the city the $5.6 billion, but Governor George Pataki has appealed the order. Bloomberg has refused to pay any part of it as some legislators have asked.

Ferrer will now be hounded over his tax proposal and for the reason he proposed it. Also, he’s still being attacked or reminded about the Diallo blunder. Both the Diallo and stock transfer tax issues were initiated by Ferrer and the headaches were created by him when each matter could have been avoided. We think they will dog him until the September 14 primary, and beyond if he wins the primary. But if he loses the primary or is forced into a runoff, there’ll be at least two very good reasons as to why that happened.

WEINER BILL WOULD PROTECT COPS, JUDGES: Reacting to recent incidents of judges being assassinated or threatened, Congressmember Anthony Weiner has introduced a bill designed to keep personal data about police and judges off the Internet. The bill would make it illegal for sensitive personal data that could endanger the life of a police officer, a judge, a court officer or a firefighter to be posted on the Internet, Weiner said.

“Cops, firefighters and judges risk their lives every day in service to this country, and it is our responsibility to ensure they are protected on and off the job,” Weiner stated. “The posting of personal information can easily be used to intimidate officers and perhaps endanger their families.”

ANOTHER HEVESI EYES ASSEMBLY: The resignation of Assemblymember Michael Cohen (D) from his 28th Assembly District seat (Forest Hills/Rego Park, Middle Village) has opened the way for state Comptroller Alan Hevesi’s youngest child, Andrew, to fill the vacancy in the May 10 special election and, hopefully, start his career in public service the same way his dad did 23 years ago.

Andrew Hevesi, 31, a Forest Hills resident, has the support of local Democratic leaders Councilmember Melinda Katz and Louis Brandt and seems in a good position to defeat a lone rival, Anthony Como, an assistant Queens district attorney from Middle Village.

Como, also 31, was endorsed by the Republican and Conservative organizations. Como has worked closely in the past with state Senator Serphin Maltese on Maltese’s senate staff and also in the Queens Republican organization headed by Maltese, so he should get maximum support for his special election bid.

Young Hevesi said in an interview that he got interested in public service when he served for two years in the Albany office of Assemblymember Jeff Klein (D–Bronx). He immediately thought of seeking the seat when Cohen announced recently he was resigning for personal reasons.

FORMER MASS. GOV FOR NYS GOV? The inability of the state Republican apparatus to get a firm commitment from a strong candidate to take on United States Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton or state Attorney General Eliot Spitzer in next year’s gubernatorial contest has opened the way for former Massachusetts Governor William Weld to try to fill the void.

Weld, 59, served as Massachusetts governor from 1990 to 1998 and went from there to his present job in a Wall Street private investment firm, in the course of which he became a New York City resident. He’s expressed an interest in running for governor in New York state and has reportedly had some discussions with GOP leaders.

The state’s Republicans find themselves with a governor, George Pataki, who has begun to slide downward in polls and popularity after three terms. He’s not anxious to step aside but Republican leaders think he would have a tough time defeating Spitzer, who’s reaching the top of his game after two years as an aggressive state attorney general who’s built a record as a Wall Street watchdog. If Clinton should decide to make the race, Pataki’s chances become only bleaker.

Republican strategists would have hoped to convince former Mayor Rudy Giuliani to become their standard bearer to succeed Pataki, but while his poll numbers stack up very well against Clinton or Spitzer, Giuliani, now a business tycoon and national political figure appears to be keeping his options open for the 2006 U.S. presidential race. He would rather tackle Clinton at that time if he has a choice in the matter.

Weld, a fiscal conservative with the private wealth, experience and desire to pull off a unique two-state governor parlay throwing his hat in the ring may solve the Republicans’ dilemma.

Of course, if Pataki decides to seek another term next year and the same void in top flight talent still besets the state’s Republicans next year, Weld might still be on their radar to challenge Clinton when she runs for re-election.

‘FIRST EVER’ AWARD TO AVELLA: City Councilmember Tony Avella (D–Bayside) recently became the first recipient of the New York Landmarks Conservancy Legislative Leadership Award for his sponsorship and enactment of a “Demolition by Neglect” bill.

Conservancy president, Peg Breen, commented that in pursuing the bill, Avella had “successfully navigated the political minefield to pass an important, long overdue bill that generally enhances our ability to save neglected landmarks. The entire preservation community is grateful for his courage and persistence.”

NOLAN NOTES PASSAGE OF ‘PEOPLE-HELPER’ BILL: A law supported by Assemblymember Catherine Nolan (D–Ridgewood) to make state forms available over the Internet was recently praised by the lawmaker as a “helpful law that allows us to provide more convenient services to the people of New York State.” The law, now in effect, will make filling out and filing state forms and applications much easier, she said

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