The Hidden Persuaders

Green Takes Heat for Hate Flyers

Last year, in what was widely viewed as a pitch to win Sharpton's endorsement of Ferrer, Ramirez was accused of launching a racial political brawl in the north Bronx after he backed a black candidate, then state senator Larry Seabrook, against a white incumbent congressman, Eliot Engel. Seabrook's campaign pitch was simple: It's our turn, he told voters. Engel won and he was prominent at Green's side at many campaign stops.

It is not difficult to find the point when the race between Green and Ferrer shifted from polite to nasty. It was after the two men split on Mayor Giuliani's demand that they agree to give him three extra months in office or face him on the ballot in November. Green famously said yes. Ferrer saw what Green did and went in the other direction, to widespread applause and increased poll numbers. Later, Ferrer went to a meeting of Local 100 of the Transport Workers Union to accept their endorsement. He told them he wasn't an "apprentice. You are either ready or you are not," he said. "There are only two kinds of people . . . Stand-up people or sit-down people."

Mark Green first heard Ferrer's words as he stood in a waiting room at the TV studios of Channel One on West 42nd Street. A clip of Ferrer at the TWU rally appeared on the room's television. Green stood in silence, his jaw hanging open, as he heard himself referred to as a "sit-down" person, the toughest words heard thus far in a runoff race that was then just two days old.

Green's runoff-night rally was held at the Sheraton Hotel and Towers on Seventh Avenue. There were more than a thousand people there, about a third of them blacks, with a sprinkling of Hispanics. Dinkins, Reverend Calvin Butts, and taxi drivers representative Fernando Mateo were among those waiting for the moment to join Green on stage. At 10:33 p.m., they cheered the announcement of what they—and everyone else—believed was a clear-cut victory, Green beating Ferrer by 4 percent. Since then, that lead has narrowed to 2 percent due to a snafu at the polls.

A formal certification of the results won't be known until next week. There are 51,000 paper ballots, of which usually only 20 percent are declared valid. An additional 8000 are absentee ballots. Even if the majority of valid ballots are for Ferrer, it will not change the outcome. Meanwhile, many of the supporters of Fernando Ferrer, who sent a message of empowerment that resonated with most of the city's black and Latino voters, are talking about bolting the Democratic Party and supporting Bloomberg, the same candidate that Isaac Abraham's constituency would also like to vote for, if they think he can win.

Research assistance: Lisa Schneider

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