News Analysis

NEW YORK — The campaign to defeat Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an ally of President Bush, has swung in the people’s favor following the Sept. 13 Democratic primary and a string of endorsements for the primary’s victor, Fernando Ferrer.

If elected as the city’s first Latino mayor on Nov. 8, Ferrer would represent a major break with the policies of Bloomberg who, despite his moderate or liberal veneer, has been applying Reagan-like “trickle down economics” to the city at the expense of working families and the poor.

Going into the primary, while many regarded Ferrer as strong candidate, some feared he might fall short of winning 40 percent of the vote, forcing him into a bruising runoff that could have threatened the unity of the of the coalition against Bloomberg.

However, when the primary was still too early to call, with Ferrer hovering just shy of the 40 percent mark, his closest challenger, Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-Brooklyn), announced his withdrawal from the race, saying “to succeed, we need focus, we need unity.” After that, a unity rally was held in front of City Hall, where Ferrer’s former rivals — Weiner, City Council Speaker Gifford Miller, and former Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields — endorsed him.

The challenge for Ferrer, many say, is to build a strong coalition of labor, racially and nationally oppressed people, progressive whites, and other democratically minded movements and organizations to support him. In this context, the unity rally at City Hall was especially important. A runoff with Fields, who is African American, could have jeopardized Latino and African American unity. Similarly, a battle between Ferrer and Weiner could have precipitated the use of racism against Ferrer and played into Bloomberg’s hands.

In recent weeks, Ferrer has picked up an impressive, multiracial list of endorsers, including former Mayor David Dinkins, the Rev. Al Sharpton, New York Attorney General Elliot Spitzer, and other elected officials and religious leaders. The race has attracted national attention from the Democratic Party, and Ferrer has been endorsed by such widely known figures as the Bill and Hillary Clinton, Howard Dean, John Kerry, and John Edwards — all of whom said that a defeat for Bloomberg is a defeat for Bush’s policies.

Dean, chair of the Democratic National Committee, accused Bloomberg of “cozying up to President Bush and supporting his failed policies.” He said it was time to end “the closed-door CEO culture in City Hall. Together, we will take this city back come November.”

Ferrer has won the endorsement of New York’s ACORN, the local chapter of the national grassroots organization of low- to middle-income families. In a statement, ACORN member Julia Boyd said, “Freddy Ferrer knows what hard working New Yorkers struggle with to get by. That’s why he stood with ACORN and fought for a higher minimum wage and for more funding for all of our schools. As mayor, Freddy will fight to end New York’s drop-out crisis and make sure all of our children have access to a quality education.”

While there have been divisions in the labor movement, Ferrer has recently been on a roll. He previously had the support of Civil Service Employees Association and the Transport Workers Union, but has recently picked up the endorsement of the Communications Workers union, the Retail Clerks, and SEIU Local 1199.

Local 1199 President Dennis Rivera said, “Over 200,000 of our members and retirees work, live, and send their children to school in New York City, and we are hopeful that Freddy will work with us to build a stronger, better and brighter city for all low-wage, working New Yorkers.” Local 1199 is known as an electoral powerhouse, normally putting a virtual army on the streets to mobilize for candidates it supports.