How Bloomy Bloomed

Blunders, Billions, and Backstabbing Beat Green

The other major media gaffe was Green's inexplicable decision not to buy any time on Hispanic television, and just a little on Hispanic radio, to counter the millions that Bloomberg had been pouring into both since the inception of the campaign. The emphasis on black and Hispanic ads was, according to Maureen Connelly, as much a product of Bloomberg's own understanding of the media business as it was the advice of Garth and other consultants. Combined with the Ferrer fallout, this blitz of targeted ads produced the highest percentage of minority votes for a Republican since Lindsay.

Faced with financial constraints that made it impossible to offset with paid media everything Bloomberg was doing, Green nonetheless decided to limit Bloomberg to two debates, albeit only one that appeared on live television. It was as if Green was heeding, for once, the advice of topflight consultants, namely the ones who had locked Bloomberg up in a candidate protection program since Day One, even hiding many of his public appearances from the press. Considering Green's experience edge, both on Crossfire and in government, this preventive defense was the ultimate dumb move in a season of them, taken from a playbook that showed no understanding of what Bloomberg's $60 million campaign was buying on the airwaves and in the mail.

• Asked on NY1 if Bloomberg could've won had Bronx Democratic boss Roberto Ramirez, hospital workers union leader Dennis Rivera, and Reverend Al Sharpton run their usual Election Day get-out-the-vote operations, Cunningham said he might not have, wisely limiting his praise to Ramirez and Rivera (Sharpton has no GOTV operation).

In a Voice interview, Schrader wouldn't say much about Rivera, who put 8000 troops into the field for Ferrer but only 300 for Green, as small an army as he sometimes dispatches for school-district elections. "Dennis could have been a great asset" is all Schrader will say. But he denounced Ramirez and Sharpton, accusing them of "sabotaging the Democratic team" and suggesting that "every time this Republican mayor lays off city workers, people should go to Sharpton and Ramirez and ask why they helped elect him." No one, he says, "should take Al Sharpton seriously again."

Of course, in the final days, these three, as well as Ferrer, boycotted Green because of the flap over the runoff leafleting tactics that linked Sharpton and Ferrer in ways Green conceded were "racist and despicable." Green denied any role in the leafleting, but a Daily News story four days before the election indicated that his field director, John Kest, did know about it, placing him and three others from the campaign at a meeting with white elected officials where the leaflets were discussed. Ferrer, who had endorsed Green at a major unity press conference, told the Voice that he "knew about that meeting" before the News story appeared, but that when it did, he sent word to Green that they had "a problem."

Green and Ferrer talked four times that Friday—the same day that Ferrer was slated to appear at a Sheraton Hotel Unity Dinner for Green. "I said, 'Four members of your staff were there. You can't claim ignorance,' " Ferrer recalls. "But he refused to fire or even discipline anyone. If he had fired the secretary, it would have satisfied me. No one walked out of the meeting. No one said, 'This is over.' He said he wouldn't act against anyone without a process. He said he and I would appoint a commission, a task force to investigate it. I said, 'It's not like no one knows what happened; it's all out there.' I said, 'Just make a gesture that shows you'll keep your word to dismiss anybody who knew.' I even suggested, 'How about suspending Kest? Wouldn't that do it?' "

When Ferrer's failure to appear at the dinner became the next day's embarrassing banner headline, he and Green talked twice again on Saturday, with both taking the same positions. "I had been willing to go along with the fiction, but now, with the News story, something different was happening," says Ferrer. "They were worried I was going to withdraw the endorsement, but I wasn't. I was just avoiding everybody. I was telling him he had to do something—not for me, but for him." Asked if he didn't realize that "bigger issues" were at stake the closer it got to Election Day, Ferrer said: "Yes, the bigger issue was believability—mine and Mark's." He said he could not leave the impression that "you can snow me" by appearing with Green without securing any concessions.

Schrader acknowledges that Green put a task force on the table and insists that's as far as he could go. "All Freddy wanted was blood," he says. "He wasn't thinking with his head. Freddy shouldn't have asked for it, and we couldn't give it." Schrader insists that Kest said at the meeting that the campaign "would have nothing to do" with the leafleting tactics and that Green could not "let some machine hack like Ramirez dictate that he fire someone." In fact, the Green camp so detested Ramirez that in the final days Green would not talk to him one-on-one about the leafleting issues.

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