Immediately after Mark Green’s disappointing second-place finish
to Fernando Ferrer in the Sept. 25 primary, the Green campaign headquarters was
in deep despair. Recriminations flew. Staff members were replaced. Then things
really went downhill.
A combination of missteps (Mr. Green’s much-criticized assent to
Rudolph Giuliani’s plan extending his term for three months) and eye-catching
endorsements of Mr. Ferrer (District Council 37, the United Federation of
Teachers, former Mayor Ed Koch) over the next several days left the Green
In the days leading up to the Oct. 11 runoff, however, something
has happened: Mr. Green has stopped affecting the persona of a gracious
victor-in-waiting, reverting instead to form, as a professional critic.
For the first time since the beginning of the 2001 Mayoral
campaign, Mr. Green launched a series of broadsides against his opponent. At
the same time, Mr. Green’s surrogates have pounded Mr. Ferrer over everything
from his economic-recovery plan to his record on abortion and the death
A new, mean Mayoral candidate Mark Green has emerged, and he’s
bent on one simple goal: to make Mr. Ferrer unelectable.
“Mark finally stopped the cautious front-runner thing,” said one
Green operative. “It would have been nice to waltz into Gracie Mansion without
any negative campaigning, but I think everyone realizes this is now trench
Bill Lynch, a key advisor to Mr. Ferrer, told The Observer that Mr. Green’s late
offensive is the result of panic, and that the nastiness emanating from the
Green campaign may even include dirty tricks. “I think it’s a desperation
move,” said Mr. Lynch. “It’s not an unusual move-when candidates feel their
campaigns are tanking, they usually go to doing negative advertising or
Mr. Lynch warned that Mr. Green’s assaults on Mr. Ferrer could
hurt him among minority voters. “The question is, does he so alienate his
African-American voters and the small number of Latino voters he got with this
kind of campaigning that they leave him for Freddy? I think that’s the risk he
Mr. Lynch also suggested that Green supporters have been
distributing a controversial Sean Delonas cartoon that appeared on Page Six of
the New York Post which depicted Mr.
Ferrer, on his knees, kissing the rear end of a grotesquely obese Al Sharpton.
“I’m not saying that Mark is passing it out, but I’ve got to
assume that supporters of his are the ones doing it. I would hope Mr. Green
would denounce it if he had anything to do with distributing it in the
Of the cartoon, Joe De Plasco, Mr. Green’s spokesman, said, “We
don’t sketch New York Post cartoons;
they’re done by the New York Post . If
they have problems with cartoons in the New
York Post , I suggest they call the New York Post . All this whining from the
Ferrer campaign is getting a little tiresome.”
Mr. De Plasco also denied that Mr. Green is acting out of any
sense of desperation.
“Bill [Lynch] knows better
than this,” Mr. De Plasco said. “The trend is towards Mark. People are coming
into the Green camp because they know that this is a critical election, and
that Mark Green has the best plan to lead the city through what will be a difficult
time. As for the statement about alienating Mark’s minority supporters, Mark
has a long record of accomplishment working with and for African-Americans.
Personally, I find it unfortunate that anyone would think that issues relating
to public safety, to our economy and to this terrible crime against our city do
not affect all communities in our city equally.”
Turning Up the Heat
The new attack strategy represents something of a correction for
the Green campaign, which was widely panned before the primary for being flat
and uninspiring. The resulting lack of excitement, and the widespread
impression that the four Democratic candidates were nearly identical, are now
thought to have contributed to an exceptionally low turnout among supporters of
“Up to now, it wasn’t a debate,” said Democratic consultant
Norman Adler. “The candidates all sounded alike-only their accents were
different. Voters need a message, and Mark’s message before the primary was
‘Vote for me; I’m winning.’ By making Ferrer’s competence and ability to govern
the issue, he’s sending a message to his voters that there is something really
big at stake.”
With Mayor Giuliani no longer an alternative, and with the winner
of the runoff facing the novice Republican candidate Mike Bloomberg in the Nov.
6 general election, Mr. Green has the opportunity to galvanize his voters. He
spent the entirety of two recent televised debates talking down to, or over,
Mr. Ferrer. He has whipped the business class into a panic by denouncing as
folly the Bronx Borough President’s proposals to disburse federal recovery
money for the World Trade Center attack to the outer boroughs. And he has
rolled out a chorus of law-and-order tough guys like former Police Commissioner
Bill Bratton, former head of emergency management Jerry Hauer, and Eric Adams,
an advocate for black police officers, to talk about the scary and dangerous
place that New York would become under a Ferrer administration.
Liberal champions like former Governor Mario Cuomo and
Representative Jerrold Nadler also have taken Mr. Ferrer to task for changing
his position on capital punishment. And on Oct. 9, the Green campaign released
an attack ad-the campaign’s first-which elevated Freddy-bashing to new heights
by calling Mr. Ferrer “borderline irresponsible.” A public-safety commercial
featuring the Uniformed Firefighters Association and the Patrolmen’s Benevolent
Association-both of which have endorsed Mr. Green and are in exalted positions
in the wake of Sept. 11-can’t be far behind.
At the same time, the Green campaign was overhauling its field
operation. After Sept. 25, they replaced the campaign staffer in charge of
turnout in Manhattan, Mr. Green’s home borough, in which he beat Mr. Ferrer in
the primary by a mere percentage point. The campaign will have a much more
active get-out-the-vote operation than before the primary, when, fearing
criticism for insensitivity in the wake of the attacks, it allowed Green
strongholds to go unattended while “1199 for Ferrer” placards were plastered
all over the Upper East Side.
And while the Ferrer campaign achieved outstanding results by
focusing its canvassing efforts in the pro-Freddy bastions of the Bronx and
Latino upper Manhattan, the Green campaign was targeting areas in Brooklyn and
Queens that also drew voters for Peter Vallone and Alan Hevesi, the other two
Democratic primary candidates, as well as Mr. Ferrer.
It remains to be seen whether Mr. Green’s souped-up campaign will
be enough to slow Mr. Ferrer’s run at City Hall-frequent assertions by pundits
that Mr. Ferrer has “momentum” seems to have created a momentum of its own.
And a number of other factors will undoubtedly work in Mr.
Ferrer’s favor. For one, Mr. Green will have to depend upon a patchwork
coalition of unions and county organizations to counter union powerhouses like
D.C. 37, Local 1199 and the U.F.T., whose field workers and phone banks have
enormous voter pull. For another, public polls continue to indicate that Mr.
Ferrer’s supporters are far more enthusiastic about the race than Mr. Green’s,
which makes them likelier to show up to vote on Election Day.
It also remains to be seen whether Mr. Green’s assaults on Mr.
Ferrer’s credibility, as well as his charges that Mr. Ferrer has run a racially
divisive campaign, will undo the good will among whites that Mr. Ferrer has
earned from heavy buys for television ads featuring the likes of Mr. Koch,
former Senator Pat Moynihan and City Council Speaker Peter Vallone.
Meanwhile, the level of tough talk emanating from the
warringDemocratic camps is escalating. AftertheMario Cuomo endorsement in a
City University of New York auditorium, a group of firefighters in dress
uniforms and emergency workers in windbreakers lingered around the podium to
pose for pictures. Pat Bahnken, the head of the city Emergency MedicalServices
workers’ union and a supporter of Mr. Green, was asked for his take on the
“Mark Green is going to win because the United States is at war,
and public safety is going to be the key issue in this election,” he said. “Mark
has guys like Jerry Hauer and Bill Bratton to deal with these issues, while
Freddy’s talking about appointing panels to discuss what to do. It’s a load of
crap. We don’t need someone to think things over-people are dying, and I have a
feeling that’s what’s going to happen if Ferrer becomes Mayor.”
And Mr. Ferrer, who had limited his initial response to Mr.
Green’s increasing bellicosity to indignant comments (“I like the old Mark
Green,” he said after one heated debate), now appears to be joining the fray in
earnest. On Oct. 9, the Ferrer campaign dispatched former Manhattan Borough
President Ruth Messinger and former Congresswoman Geraldine Ferraro to Green
headquarters with instructions to “blast Green’s new 11th hour negative attack
ad.” In addition, the Ferrer campaign just released a new commercial denouncing
the Green attacks.
For Mr. Green, the recent combativeness of the race seems to suit
him just fine. On Oct 9 he was campaigning in the middle of his home turf,
shaking hands at a subway stop at 77th Street and Lexington Avenue, now covered
with Green posters and volunteers handing out Green palm cards. Asked for a
prediction, he said: “I think Freddy is fading in the last week. The tide is
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