Campaign Endorsement Bombshell
In a surprise development in the ongoing mayoral campaign, lifelong Democrats Peter Vallone Sr. and City Councilmember Peter Vallone Jr. crossed party lines to endorse Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg for re-election last Saturday.
Vallone Sr., former City Council Speaker, said he made the unexpected decision “to put politics aside” and chose Bloomberg over Fernando Ferrer, the Democratic candidate, because Bloomberg has been a great mayor and holds the promise of being even better in his second term.
Vallone Jr. said he based his decision on “what’s best for the security of Astoria and the rest of New York City.”
The young lawmaker, chairman of the council Public Safety Committee, said he has gained great respect for Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly over the past four years, and admires Kelly’s pledge to continue as Police Commissioner if Bloomberg wins another term. It was this that persuaded him to stick with the Bloomberg–Kelly team.
The move by the two high-profile Democrats caught most people by surprise, but it did not elicit any hints of political retribution.
Congressmember Joseph Crowley (D–Queens/Bronx), a Ferrer supporter, kept his reaction positive, saying simply: “I’m supporting Freddie Ferrer. I think he’s the right man for the job.”
Queens Democratic Party Leader Thomas Manton, a longtime friend of Vallone Sr. as well as a political colleague said he was disappointed by their decision.
“Peter Sr. is a private citizen, so he can do what he wants,” said Manton, who spoke with father and son before their announcement. “But Peter Jr. is an active Democratic official who ran with our party’s support, so I think a lot of people will be as disappointed with his action as I am.”
State Senator George Onorato (D–Astoria), also a longtime associate of the former Speaker, and still a district leader from their powerful Taminent Democratic Club in Astoria, said the Vallones had told him their decision about a week ago. I said, “Do what you feel is right. It’s still a free country.”
Onorato added, “I’m still a regular organization guy and I support the Democratic candidate. We [the party] made the decision in the primary and I’ll abide by that and stand ready to do what I can to get him elected.”
With the mayor present, the Vallones announced their decision last Saturday afternoon in Mike’s Diner, just a few doors from Vallone Sr.’s law office and the councilmember’s district office. The mayor took time out from campaigning elsewhere in Astoria to accept their support.
In an interview on Monday, Vallone Sr. stated, “It was a question of who’s best qualified to run the city.” He said Bloomberg has been a very good mayor, citing his success in gaining full control over the Board of Education from the state legislature and running it well.
“I feel he can be a great mayor over the next four years,” Vallone Sr. continued. Just as Bloomberg succeeded where Vallone failed in getting control of the Board of Education, “he’s got a good chance of getting the commuter tax reinstated, another thing I failed to get,” Vallone said.
Councilmember Vallone explained he had developed a great working relationship with Bloomberg over the past several years. “It has enabled me to help this district immensely,” he said.
Vallone Jr. added that the mayor had “reached out to me and my dad,” and the two had decided it would be the best thing for Astoria and the rest of New York City for Bloomberg to continue as mayor. “He’s been a very good mayor,” the councilmember said.
Young Vallone repeated, “My main objective as Public Safety chairman is the safety of New York City.” He explained Commissioner Kelly’s influence on his decision to endorse the mayor and stated, “I feel my constituents will be much safer with Bloomberg as mayor and Kelly as police commissioner. They’ve been a good combination so far.”
He acknowledged the endorsement decision “politically may not be so good for me” because he hopes to continue in public service. But, he insisted, “My main reason for doing it was that I felt it would be best for the city.”