2005-09-14 / Front Page

Weiner Concedes Primary To Ferrer, Pulls Out Of Runoff For Party Unity

by john toscano

Comgressmember Anthony Weiner dropped a bombshell into the race for the Democratic nomination for mayor Wednesday when he conceded victory in Tuesday’s primary election to former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer.

“This is the time to put off my opportunity for a runoff,” Weiner declared at a hastily called press conference in front of his childhood home in Park Slope, Brooklyn. “This is the time for Fernando Ferrer to make his case against Mayor Michael Bloomberg.”

As he opened the press conference, Weiner declared, “We need unity to make our case against [Bloomberg].” The incumbent Republican mayor is his party’s candidate for a second four-year term in the general election November 8. Weiner admitted candidly that he had philosophical differences with Ferrer, but to a much different degree than those he has with Bloomberg.

Late Tuesday night, unofficial returns showed that the ballot count in the Democratic mayoral primary gave Ferrer 39.9 percent of the vote. Weiner was a clear second with 29 percent.

The vote count clearly indicated there would be recounts of the voting machines. Some 20,000 absentee ballots also remained to be tallied. There was no assurance that all this would result in a runoff election. Meanwhile, precious time in the eight-week campaign that the Democratic candidate, whoever that might be, could use to battle Bloomberg would be wasted and the candidate’s already slim chance to defeat the mayor would be weakened still further.

Poll after poll has shown the mayor with a comfortable lead against Ferrer, the leading Democratic candidate. The mayor also stands ready to open a campaign war chest of up to $100 million to nail down a victory. Weiner therefore decided to put party unity before personal ambition in order to give the Democratic candidate a chance to win the election against Bloomberg.

The 41-year-old lawmaker, a Forest Hills resident who represents the Queens-Brooklyn 9th Congressional District, said at the press conference, “My decision is a difficult decision. It’s my nature to keep fighting”—but not this day. Weiner believes in the runoff system, he said, “but this year, it’s different.”

As he has in the past, Weiner alluded to Bloomberg’s connections to President George W. Bush, like Bloomberg, a Republican. Weiner has criticized the mayor for not fighting for more anti-terror funding from Washington. For these reasons, he said, “We need unity to make a strong case against [Bloomberg]. Democratic success depends on a unified front.”

Early Wednesday morning at a campaign stop in Harlem, Weiner gave no indication of conceding. He had said it was “best for the party to pursue the runoff” according to reports from the Associated Press. Several hours later, however, he had changed his mind.

Election officials said official primary results might not be known until next week. If the vote count shows there must be a runoff, however, a runoff election will take place on September 27, whether or not Weiner campaigns for it.

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