City Council victories, mayoral defeat

NEW YORK – While returns from the Nov. 6 election across the country show a setback for the GOP, Republican Michael Bloomberg became the 108th mayor here, defeating Democrat Mark Green by a slim 40,000 votes.

Billionaire Bloomberg virtually bought the election, spending a record $60 million of his own money, in his mayoral run in a city registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 5 to 1. Last year these same voters, including a politically active labor movement and a huge Black and Latino voting bloc, voted overwhelmingly against George W. Bush. In every other citywide race, and in all but one borough presidential race, the Democrats won by large margins.

Just a couple of weeks ago, Mark Green, who had been the city’s Public Advocate, had a 16-point lead over Bloomberg, who had never been elected to public office before.

Green’s defeat in this election can be explained in a few ways.

First, the Democrats had a very sharp primary struggle, leading to disunity in the general election. During the primary, Green’s campaign insinuated that his rival, Fernando Ferrer, was incompetent and attempted to whip up fears over his association with Rev. Al Sharpton. Green failed to deal forthrightly with the charges that his campaign had played the racism card against Ferrer. This weakened Green’s support, especially among Latinos, African Americans and other progressive voters, including important sections of labor.

The Bloomberg campaign took full advantage of this split and launched the most aggressive media and mailing campaign in the history of New York politics. Bloomberg bragged that as a private businessman he understood the economy better then

Green and could better deal with businesses in the rebuilding effort here. “New York is a Business,” he declared, “and it needs a businessman as Mayor not a politician.”

Green lashed back with personal attacks, despite the fact that Bloomberg’s wealth, pro-big business and anti-labor stands on issues were the real problem, not his personality.

While the election of Bloomberg is a setback and will be a real obstacle to progress down the road, the progressive forces should have more leverage with the new City Council. Because of term limits most city council races (37 out of 51) were without incumbents. Voters also elected William C. Thompson, a Democrat, who will be the first African-American Comptroller in the city’s history. Democrat Betsy Gotbaum was elected as the first female Public Advocate in the city’s history.

In neighboring Nassau County, Democrat Thomas R. Suozzi was elected County Executive. This is the first time in 30 years that a Republican has not been elected to that post. The Democrats also held on to their one-vote majority on the county legislature.

The author can be reached at Jtyner@cpusa.org