Mayoral Race: The "R" Word
"Bloomberg is a Republican," Fernando Ferrer declared in a campaign statement on Friday, and he was not alone.
The same day, Congressman Jose Serrano of the Bronx accused the mayor of "talking out of both sides of his boca," and charged that "since Bloomberg became a Republican, Republicans in Congress have launched twelve different proposals to force English-Only policies onto the nation … [Bloomberg] never takes his party to task on the issues that matter to ordinary New Yorkers."
Serrano isn't running for mayor, but he's reading from the same script: The Democratic candidates are striving to stick Michael Bloomberg with the stain of his party.
In an April speech at Fordham University, Congressman Anthony Weiner told the crowd, "President Bush, who Mayor Bloomberg endorsed and said was good for New York City, has produced budgets that shortchange New York City out of billions."
When City Council speaker Gifford Miller announced his candidacy back in February, he said, "We need a mayor who will fight for this city's fair share, a mayor who will put the interests of all New Yorkers in front of the interests of his Republican allies."
Ferrer's statement on Friday was included in a release titled "Ferrer blasts Bloomberg and Bush administration Republican allies for strong-arming stadium approval at New Yorkers’ expense."
What the former Bronx Beep said in full was:
- Bloomberg is a Republican. When he needs help implementing bad public policy at the expense of New York City taxpayers, he looks to his friend, President Bush, who again wants to use New York City as a photo-op. If Bloomberg really understood the needs of the people of this city, he would be lobbying President Bush for increased federal funding for schools, transportation, and homeland security, not a stadium for the rich.
A separate Ferrer statement faulted Bloomberg for "hypocrisy" for criticizing federal legislation to shield gun manufacturers from lawsuits. "He's helped to re-elect the very Senators and Congressman who keep making it easier for guns to get onto our streets," the Democratic front-runner said.
Of course, Bloomberg isn't the easiest person to label a Republican these days: He used to be a Democrat; he's pro-choice, relatively gay friendly ("relatively" because his decision to contest a court ruling legalizing gay unions irked many), and secular. Hell, he might even believe in evolution!
But the Democrats running for mayor contend that his own ideology aside, Bloomberg has not been tough enough on his Republican allies in Albany or Washington. The mayor's campaign and people like Democratic Sen. Chuck Schumer deny that charge. For the Democrats, however, the mayor's GOP identity is part of the argument that Bloomberg an out of touch billionaire. After all, Democrats outnumber Republicans by a five-to-one margin in this town, so simply by being a Republican, Bloomberg is already at odds with 83 percent of his constituents.
However, party loyalty is far from absolute. As John Mollenkopf pointed out in the Times this weekend, Dubya made big gains among city voters in the 2004 race. Dubya's share of the five-borough vote rose from 19 percent in 2000 to 24 percent last year. He gained 185,000 votes in the city, while John Kerry picked up only 136,000 more than Al Gore received. Factors unique to the presidential racelike the national security issue or the fact that New York was such a safe Democratic state in the electoral collegemight have produced that trend for Bush. There was no swell of support to other Republican candidates, like Howard Mills, whom Schumer beat seven to one.
But Republicans have won three mayoral elections in a row. And despite the hubbub over Bloomberg's courting the Independence Party line, in 2001 the mayor's Republican votes alone beat Mark Green's Democratic votes. (The results were: Republican Bloomberg 685,666; Democrat Green 676,717; Liberal Bloomberg 59,091; Working Families Green 32,551.)
There is an old saying that there's no Republican or Democratic way to take out the garbage. Democrats are trying to put the lie to that adage by connecting unpopular national policies with the city's woes, and its mayor.