Becoming 'Dem-ato'

Schumer Morphs Into Alfonse: Fires Assault Weapon at Green, and Praises His Own Miss

Tom Manton, a congressional colleague of Schumer's who doubles as Queens county leader, said ''every time I walked through the halls,'' Schumer would come up ''and push me to help him go over 50.'' Manton, who endorsed Schumer despite Ferraro's Queens origins, kept telling his candidate that he would give him as many votes as he could, but that he also ''had to help Gerry get over 25.'' No sooner had Manton recounted this tale, even as the roll call was winding down, than Schumer appeared, sitting next to him in the midst of the Queens delegation, his mouth puckered up against Manton's ear.

Manton, like Alpert, had held back votes on the first call. But when Ferraro qualified, Queens went overwhelmingly for Schumer. He finished with 44 per cent, far short of his self-justifying goal. The 47-year-old Schumer has been running for office since he was 23 and a student at Harvard Law School, commuting to Brooklyn for his first race for assembly. He has never lost because he will not let himself lose. He is as inexhaustible as he is elastic--meaning he can glad-hand as well as he can goose--a mirror image, in some respects, of the senator who rules New York.

The other big player at the party conclave also came from Brooklyn: district attorney and gubernatorial nominee Joe Hynes, a two-time statewide loser now poised for a third impossible shot at Albany. Hynes's 28 per cent was a gift from assembly speaker Shelly Silver and baby Democrat Betsy McCaughey Ross. On his own, the 62-year-old warhorse would've missed the magical 25 again, just as he did in his two races for attorney general in 1978 and 1994.

Appropriately, as soon as the roll call for governor was over and Hynes was on, Ross walked off the floor and directly into Hynes's suite, first greeting his staff and finally finding Hynes himself in the hallway. Hynes could be heard thanking her and she could be heard saying, ''You're welcome.'' Eight months a Democrat, Ross had strategically used her paltry collection of convention delegates to shape a three-way September primary, making herself the plausible top nominee of a party she only joined after exasperating the alternatives.

Ross won just 3 per cent of the convention vote--which will force her millionaire husband to bankroll a petition drive to qualify her for the race against Hynes and city council speaker Peter Vallone--but it was the rest of her 10 per cent or so that helped Hynes over the hump.

None was more helpful than Steve Sabbeth, the Nassau leader who abandoned homeboy hopeful Jim LaRocca to endorse Ross on the eve of the convention, and then passed the mike from delegate to delegate during the roll call, eliciting 14 votes for Hynes--the third candidate for governor he'd backed in a week. While Sabbeth was publicly claiming he'd swung to Ross (and to Hynes temporarily at her behest) because she was better financed than ex-transportation commissioner LaRocca, he was privately intimating, according to sources, that the Ross campaign had pledged $100,000 to the Nassau party.

The joke on the floor was that the hulking Sabbeth, who is under a federal fraud indictment that Ross dismissed as ''irrelevant,'' never takes so much as a moment of rest from manipulation. Yet in a Voice interview, Ross raved about him as ''wonderful'' and ''one of my top advisers,'' observing that he hadn't been convicted yet. The Brooklyn D.A. was as unabashed about an indicted felon putting him over the top as LaRocca was aghast at what he blasted as Sabbeth's ''extraordinary betrayal,'' a switch that cost the telegenic businessman his shot at 25 per cent.

Hynes was so ill-prepared for his surprise win that he stumbled through an apparently unexpected post-qualifying press conference. Asked what he would do about identifying a lieutenant governor, he recounted a tale of a legendary Brooklyn party boss who refused to take part in judicial selections because all it led to were enemies and ingrates. Like the old boss, Hynes said he'd leave the choice to the electorate. Within hours, however, his camp had picked an unknown upstate town supervisor, and aided again by the Silver convention forces, he put her on the ballot the next morning as his running mate.

Questioned at the same conference about how he would distinguish himself from front-runner Vallone, Hynes pointed to a single issue: the death penalty. Hynes is against it, Vallone is for it. Hynes is so against it that he has sought to enforce it more than any D.A. in the state, and his assistants were, even as Hynes denounced it, presenting the first capital punishment case to a jury. Of course, it would take a majority in both houses to reverse the state's death penalty law, making it a somewhat bizarre basis for a gubernatorial campaign.

But Hynes was holding a trump card. Sylvia Friedman, the east side state committeewoman who voted for Hynes, says he ''promised'' her that if elected, ''no one would be executed in New York'' because he would ''commute the sentence'' of anyone slated for execution under the new law. ''He hesitated before he said it,'' said Friedman. Maybe Hynes was a bit confounded about how he would square this quiet promise with the explanation he publicly offers for seeking executions: namely, that it's his duty to carry out the law whether he agrees or disagrees with it.

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