The terrorists who demolished the World Trade Center and left at least 6,871 individuals confirmed or presumed dead there also scored a more mundane achievement. New York City’s September 11 mayoral primary was postponed, even though some voters already had cast ballots that fateful morning. The primary has been rescheduled for today, just a fortnight since Hell came to Manhattan.
In light of Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s universally lauded performance under the most trying circumstances, New Yorkers must ponder the unthinkable: How will their candidates of choice govern at City Hall if fanatic mass murderers strike again?
City Council President Peter Vallone seems the most even-keeled and seasoned Democrat on the ballot. It’s hard to picture his opponents — Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer, Public Advocate Mark Green and City Comptroller Alan Hevesi — uniting and inspiring citizens, cops, and firefighters the way Giuliani so deftly continues to do.
But give all four Democrats this: They have experience in government. Between the two Republicans running for mayor, only former congressman and recent City University chairman Herman Badillo has served in public office. His rival, billionaire media mogul Michael Bloomberg, would commence his on-the-job training as a public administrator upon taking the oath of office next January 1. In normal times, it would be a Herculean challenge to govern a city of 8 million people as one’s first public task. Given the reconstruction New York must do, and the distinct possibility that there may be more destruction to come, the idea of a Bloomberg mayoralty is less fanciful than reckless.
Besides, the arguments against Bloomberg that existed before September 11 remain today.
Michael Bloomberg is the castor oil of New York Republican politics. The GOP’s “grown ups” insist he’s the medicine the party needs. But many of the “little guys” have no interest in swallowing this tonic.
To his credit, Bloomberg enjoys the support of U.S. Senator John McCain (R., Arizona) and influential Republican legislators Roy Goodman and John Ravitz of Manhattan and Queens’ Serf Maltese. Before the WTC atrocity consumed their energies, New York governor George Pataki and Mayor Giuliani also praised Bloomberg.
But the recommendations are hardly universal. Badillo, the conservative Republican alternative to Bloomberg, has won the endorsements of the Bronx County Republican organization, the New York Young Republican Club as well as the Forest Park, William Fells, Gramercy Park, and Broadway Republican clubs.
The New York Young Republican Club went so far as to place an ad in the September 5 — 11 New York Press headlined “The top 10 reasons Michael Bloomberg will be a bad candidate for the New York Republican Party.” Among other things, the ad notes that Bloomberg “is a lifelong liberal Democrat,” “thinks a taxi qualifies as mass transportation,” and “has been a registered Republican for less time than Hillary Clinton has been a resident of New York.”
“Michael Bloomberg stands for everything wrong with New York’s Republican party — the craven desire for power without any real ideas and no message,” New York Young Republican Club president Robert Hornak told me just before the scuttled primary. “As a member of the Republican party for less than a year, Michael Bloomberg has done something it has taken the party bosses in this city many years to do: take the Republican party base completely for granted and run for office as a ‘low-fat’ Democrat.”
It is amazing that so many prominent Republicans have allowed the glitter of Bloomberg’s gold to blind them to his record as a devoted generous, liberal Democrat. Between 1990 and 2000, Federal Election Commission records show, Bloomberg gave $308,500 to Democratic candidates and campaigns while donating only $28,500 to Republicans. Bloomberg’s beneficiaries include super-liberal, Democratic senators such as Iowa’s Tom Harkin ($2,000), Maryland’s Barbara Mikulski ($3,500) and Connecticut’s Chris Dodd ($4,000). Bloomberg also cut checks to left-wing New York Democrats including U.S. representatives Jerrold Nadler ($1,000), Nita Lowey ($2,000), and Carolyn McCarthy ($3,500).
Old habits apparently die hard for Bloomberg. Democratic polling firm Penn & Schoen has surveyed voters for him. Penn & Schoen helped Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton defeat Republican Rick Lazio’s U.S. Senate bid. Bloomberg’s media firm is Squier Knapp Dunn. It performed media services for Albert Gore’s 2000 primary and general presidential campaigns.
New York Republicans deserve to be suspicious of Bloomberg. Rather than accept the snake oil GOP bigwigs have prescribed, they should support a genuine conservative who actually has helped Mayor Giuliani govern this city from the right.
Herman Badillo has boosted educational standards as Chairman of City University and helped revive that once-waning institution. Badillo advocates the abolition of the income-tax surcharge and promises no tax increases. “Overregulation, excessive taxes and inadequate housing hold back our economy and lose jobs,” Badillo declared in a mailing to Gotham Republicans. “They must be eliminated.”
Bloomberg has not ruled out a tax hike. The last two direct-mail circulars I received from Bloomberg discuss his endorsements at length. In neither, however, does the candidate even address the pivotal issue of taxation in New York City.
While Herman Badillo was a Democratic congressman years ago, his service to Mayor Giuliani and his embrace of conservative, pro-market ideas indicate that he — as Ronald Reagan once did — has purged the liberalism from his system. Republicans have every reason to believe Bloomberg is a donkey in elephant’s clothing. GOP primary voters should shock party elders today by rejecting the opportunism of novice Michael Bloomberg and nominating instead the battle-tested Herman Badillo, a booster shot of Republican principles.