2001: An Election Odyssey

Races All Over the City Promise a ‘Mad, Mad’ Year

Vallone and David L. Cohen, the executive director of the state Democratic Party, told the Voice that they believed council Democrats should pledge to abide by the choice for speaker made within their own conference, the practice in virtually every other legislature. That would make the selection of a black or Latino speaker more likely, since they are the majority of the current Democratic conference. The first Asians—possibly Margaret Chin in Manhattan and John Liu in Queens—may also be joining the council, increasing the nonwhite majority within the conference. If no minority wins any of the citywide offices—Bronx borough president Freddy Ferrer and Board of Education president Bill Thompson are the only two running—it would make a minority speaker, or at least finance committee chair, more likely.

The battles to succeed longtime borough presidents Claire Shulman (Queens), Howard Golden (Brooklyn), Guy Molinari (Staten Island), and Ferrer also may be wild. Molinari is trying to install his deputy, Jim Molinaro, who's also head of the borough's Conservative Party, which would make Molinaro the first Conservative to hold office in the city for decades. But Jay O'Donovan, the Democratic councilmember, is a formidable opponent, and Republican Robert Straniere says he will make up his mind soon about a possible candidacy. Brooklyn offers a combustible primary between Golden's deputy, Jeanette Gadson, State Senator Marty Markowitz, and Ken Fisher, the son of the legendary Harold Fisher, once a dominant power in the heyday of the Brooklyn machine.

Shulman is so determined to block the election of Carole Gresser, her onetime appointee to the Board of Education, that she is pushing any alternative. Her current favorite is Assemblywoman Audrey Pheffer, who may become the organization candidate, with most black Democratic district leaders supporting Helen Marshall, the outgoing city councilmember. Shelly Leffler, council maverick, has a chance to win, though he is unlikely to be endorsed by a single party or public official.

illustration by Jeff Crosby

While the other boroughs are crowded with candidates, Bronx Democratic boss Roberto Ramirez claims he has none. Ramirez watchers predict he may put up Councilmember Adolfo Carrión Jr., while his opponents in the county, led by Congressman Eliot Engel, back Willie Colon, the Latin entertainer. Councilmember June Eisland and State Senator Espada are also said to be looking at it.

Research: Jennifer Sain and Laurence Pantin

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