Outside Yankee Stadium, just before Game 5 of the American
League Divisional Series on Oct. 15, Mark Green stationed himself at exactly
the point where the B, D and No. 4 subway lines disgorge their passengers. A
bottleneck quickly formed as Mr. Green grabbed hands, shouted greetings and got
up-close and personal with thousands of energetic Yankee fans. Aides gave out
“Green for Mayor” scorecards and funneled the fans towards the candidate.
“Way to go, Mark-way to be, baby,” said a large, shaved-headed
man in a Roger Clemens jersey.
“Thanks for blocking the subway, Mark,” said another,
angrier-looking fan, squeezing past members of the security detail.
A group of young men descending from the elevated station
spotted Mr. Green and pointedly began chanting: “Roo-DEE! Roo-DEE!”
Mr. Green kept smiling.
Despite a brutal few days, Mr. Green was very much himself,
showing off the brash style and thick skin that have gotten him to within a
hair of becoming the next Mayor of New York. When supporters of Fernando Ferrer
began denouncing his campaign as dirty and racially provocative, Mr. Green paid
them about as much attention as he does to hecklers at his campaign stops. When
Mr. Ferrer withdrew his concession to Mr. Green because of 42,000 votes that
were counted twice, Mr. Green paid a visit to Mr. Ferrer’s Bronx
backyard for an ostentatious retail campaign event. When the city’s Democratic
establishment was thrown into chaos-with black and Latino Democratic leaders
flirting with billionaire Republican Michael Bloomberg
as party leaders beg for a cessation of intra-party hostilities-Mr. Green
refused to give any ground.
“I won the election,” he calmly insisted at a press
conference on Oct. 14.
At issue is a last-minute Green ad which asked if the city
could afford to take a chance on Mr. Ferrer. The borough president’s supporters
said the attack used racial “code words” to appeal to white voters. There was
also anger over leaflets and phone calls-the Green campaign disavowed
them-linking Mr. Ferrer to the Reverend Al Sharpton, one of his key supporters.
The controversy was given new intensity when the vote-counting error was
Since the runoff on Oct. 11, Mr. Green and his top
supporters have placed calls to every black and Latino official who supported
Mr. Ferrer in an effort to diffuse the potentially damaging situation. The
outreach has yielded some results, notably in the case of State Comptroller
Carl McCall, New York’s
highest-ranking black elected official, who endorsed Mr. Green on Oct. 14. But
frustration and anger among some other high-profile minority leaders has
lingered. Bronx Democratic leader Roberto Ramirez is an
almost-nightly presence on the all-news channel New York
1, regularly denouncing what he sees as Mr. Green’s arrogance and hypocrisy.
Stalwart Democratic Representative Charles Rangel invited Mr. Bloomberg to his Harlem
office for a meeting, where he praised the Republican candidate. And, according
to people who were in attendance at a noisy meeting of Ferrer supporters three
days after the runoff, union boss Dennis Rivera openly pushed the idea of
endorsing Mr. Bloomberg, who will oppose Mr. Green in the general election on
“I think a number are quite upset, and our support [in the
general election] shouldn’t be taken for granted,” Queens Congressman Gregory
Meeks told The Observer. “I’m not ready to leave the Democratic party right now, but if they intend to leave me on the
fringes, we’ll see.”
All of this bodes ill for Mr. Green. So why is he still
For one thing, he remains the odds-on favorite to become the
city’s next Mayor, even without the help of some of Mr. Ferrer’s supporters.
And while the attacks on Mr. Green may have the effect of depressing turnout in
the black and Latino communities-bad news for any Democratic candidate-vocal
opposition from Ferrer backers like Mr. Sharpton and Mr. Ramirez, who are
themselves artful practitioners of racial politics, may prove to help him with
conservative white voters. That’s exactly what happened in the runoff with Mr.
Ferrer. “Standing up to these guys will make him principled and independent in
the eyes of outer-borough Catholics and Jews,” said one major Green supporter.
Mr. Green no doubt hopes that the Ferrer camp’s threat to
either cross over to Mr. Bloomberg or remain on the sidelines in November will
turn out to be a bluff. With a number of exceptions-such as Mr. Rivera, who is
an ally of Governor George Pataki and whose members are less dependent on the
Mayor’s largesse than other major unions-it is likely that the leaders who
backed Mr. Ferrer are simply holding out for some attention and respect from
Mr. Green before returning to the Democratic fold. To cite just one example,
it’s hard to imagine that Mr. Rangel, who wrote and passed legislation
prohibiting American companies from trading with apartheid-era South Africa,
would give his blessing to a businessman, Mr. Bloomberg, who invested there at
a time when U.S. policies still requested restraint.
Former Mayor David Dinkins certainly doesn’t think Mr. Rangel
will wind up with Mr. Bloomberg. “Charlie is my brother,” he told The Observer.
“We disagree about this, but I predict in time that he’ll come around.”
Even if Mr. Bloomberg does receive high-profile endorsements
from Ferrer Democrats, it’s questionable whether they will translate into large
numbers of votes. Minority voters, especially black voters, have historically
proven to be the most loyally Democratic. “If Charlie Rangel endorsed
Bloomberg,” said Democratic consultant Norman Adler, “Bloomberg would get the
votes of Charlie Rangel and Charlie Rangel’s staff. And that’s about it.”
Regardless of whether Mr. Bloomberg actually lands any
endorsements out of this
ugly Democratic squabble, his campaign is hoping to maximize the
damage to Mr. Green’s popularity. “I believe that people in every neighborhood
of the city are going to be turned off by Mark Green’s sleazy campaign
tactics,” said Bloomberg campaign manager Bill Cunningham. “Given the
opportunity to run a campaign of inclusion, he ran a campaign of division.
We’ll certainly use that against him.”
Privately, Bloomberg strategists are slightly more wary
about plunging into a confusing and controversial internecine squabble with
racial overtones, and they worry that it will take attention away from their
candidate. “It’s a double-edged sword,” said one Bloomberg insider. “When it
gets to the point that the whole story shifts to this Mark-versus-Freddy stuff,
Mike gets relegated to the ‘meanwhile’ part of the story. Even when Charlie
Rangel and [Ferrer adviser] Bill Lynch meet with [Mr. Bloomberg], which is a
big deal, it gets caught up in the whole Green thing. Mike’s not going to be
able to sit back and just watch Green sink.”
Whether Mr. Green sinks or not, the ill feelings stemming
from the primary are unlikely to dissipate anytime soon-which raises the
question of how the lingering bitterness will affect him if he wins the general
election and takes office in what promises to be a troubled time. “Mark doesn’t
want to go in there like Ed Koch did, fighting with minority leaders,” said a
Green advisor. “The worry here is that all this is going to poison the well.”
In the meantime, as Mr. Green plows ahead with his campaign,
his supporters are desperate to see the whole mess go away. “This is one of the
most painful periods I’ve ever had in 30 years in the trenches of New York
politics,” said Ken Sunshine, a veteran Democratic activist who is both a
personal friend of Mr. Green and a close confidante of Mr. Rivera. “I never
dreamed it would come to this.”
-Additional reporting by Petra Bartosiewicz and Andrea