Upper West Side Candidate Stands by Giuliani Contribution

Helen Rosenthal. (Photo: Facebook)

Helen Rosenthal. (Photo: Facebook)

Helen Rosenthal, one of the leading Democrats campaigning for an Upper West Side Council district, cut a $1,000 check for former Republican Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s aborted Senate campaign. But despite the neighborhood’s status as a progressive bastion, Ms. Rosenthal’s campaign told Politicker she stood by the contribution as a strategic play against a more conservative rival.

“As a Board member of NARAL Pro-Choice America, Helen donated to pro-choice candidates for elected office. In 2000, Giuliani ran against anti-choice Lazio in the primary and Helen donated to the pro-choice candidate who (at that time) was also anti-gun,” said Ahmed Tigani, a spokesman for Ms. Rosenthal, in a statement. “Helen has always strongly supported Hillary Clinton and gave the maximum legal donations to both her Senate and Presidential campaigns.”

Helen Rosenthal contributed to Mr. Giuliani’s exploratory committee in February 2000, several months before he dropped his bid in May. Former Republican Congressman Rick Lazio would eventually replace Mr. Giuliani in the GOP primary and lose to Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Ms. Rosenthal, who has worked in several city administrations, including Mr. Giuliani’s, did not give any money to Ms. Clinton’s 2000 Senate campaign, according to FEC records. Ms. Clinton began laying the groundwork for a Senate race not long after Daniel Patrick Moynihan announced his retirement in 1998.

“I couldn’t tell you why I didn’t donate to Hillary Clinton [in 2000],” Ms. Rosenthal told Politicker in a follow-up interview. “It wasn’t because I was fervently for or against anything. It had nothing to do with Clinton or Giuliani. It wasn’t purposeful or meaningful.”

“I was a maxed-out person for Clinton for president,” she added.

(Her spokesman further noted her contributions to “a broad array of progressive Democrats and organizations, including Congressman Jerry Nadler, Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Gabby Giffords and NARAL.”)

At the time, the Senate race was advertised as a high-profile battle between Mr. Giuliani and Ms. Clinton. According to reports, Mr. Lazio was “ambivalent” about entering the race and only officially jumped in after Mr. Giuliani dropped out. His entry into the race, according to 2000 reports, was not a surprise to the political establishment, however.

Ms. Rosenthal is facing a number of top-tier Democrats in her City Council race, including district leaders Marc Landis and Debra Cooper, businessman Ken Biberaj, former community board chair Mel Wymore and education activist Noah Gotbaum. The current councilwoman, Gale Brewer, is term-limited.