Ferrer: Party Revival Begins in New York

Posted December 10, 2004 at 2:59pm

Fernando Ferrer, Rep. Anthony Weiner’s (D-N.Y.) leading rival for the Democratic nomination in the 2005 New York mayoral race, said New York is the Democrats’ best opportunity to reposition themselves in advance of the 2006 and 2008 elections.

The race for Gotham City Hall is one of four major contests on the national docket in 2005, along with gubernatorial elections in New Jersey and Virginia and the mayoral race in Los Angeles.

“I think this is going to end up being the most important national race [in 2005] because Democrats are going to have to use this race to redefine themselves,” said Ferrer during a visit to Washington, D.C., last week. “If we can’t bring it home in ’05, how are we going to bring it home in ’06 and ’08?”

Ferrer, the former Bronx borough president and early frontrunner in the Democratic race to take on Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg, could face a field that includes Weiner, City Council Speaker Gifford Miller, Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields and City Councilman Charles Barron.

Ferrer was the only potential candidate to lead the billionaire Bloomberg in a recent general election trial heat. His high name recognition may be the reason: Ferrer ran briefly for mayor in 1997 before dropping out, then was the runner-up in a Democratic runoff in 2001. He’s also spent 13 years as borough president and several more on the City Council.

While hesitant to discuss his campaign strategy, Ferrer said Bloomberg has spent too much political capital trying to build a publicly-funded football stadium on the West Side of Manhattan for the New York Jets, at a time when the city faces too many other challenges.

“The Democratic primary should be a robust exchange of visions for the city, and I have a vision for the city,” he said. “And it’s an alternative vision.”

Ferrer’s goal is to avoid a runoff by surpassing 40 percent in the primary. But he refuses to discuss his opponents or the racial and ethnic calculations that go into every New York election. Miller and Weiner, who just won a fourth term in the House, are white; Fields and Barron black.

Ferrer, for his part, is attempting to become the city’s first Latino mayor. With Latinos an intensely courted political demographic by both parties, his ethnicity could make waves nationally. A leading candidate in Los Angeles’ nonpartisan mayoral race, City Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa, is also Latino, as is Rep. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) who could be elevated to Senator in early 2006 if Sen. Jon Corzine (D-N.J.) wins his bid for governor.

Of Weiner, all Ferrer will say is, “Bright guy, good Democrat — that’s all that matters to me.”

Ferrer promised to roll out a series of endorsements from the city’s Congressional delegation in early 2005, but named no names.

Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.) was a key supporter in 2001, though he will be under some pressure to support Fields, who shares his Harlem political base. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) would be expected to gravitate toward Miller, who used to work on her staff and who seems to resonate with her affluent but liberal Upper East Side constituency.

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), who represents Manhattan’s Upper West Side and downtown areas as well as parts of Brooklyn, also will be an important “get” in the Democratic primary. There is no natural favorite for the hyper-liberal white voters in Nadler’s district, so his word could carry clout.

“You’re a Member of Congress, you’re a very important person. I want them all to endorse me,” Ferrer said.

Ferrer will rely on a team full of veterans from his prior races.

David Axelrod will be his media consultant. Roberto Ramirez, a former state assemblyman and Bronx Democratic leader, and Luis Miranda, who worked with former Mayor Ed Koch (D), will be general strategists. Ferrer is the labor-union favorite, and will receive advice from Democratic National Committee Vice Chairman Bill Lynch, who masterminded David Dinkins’ mayoral victory in 1989.