Ferrer's Color-Coded Victory Plan

A Freddy win in September could pose a demographic dilemma for big-bucks Mike

There's an "absolute parallel," Messinger told the Voice, recounting the ways Rivera, Hevesi, Schumer, and others undercut her. When asked after her 1997 loss to rate Big Dems on how helpful they were, she gave Ferrer the only 10 and Schumer and Hevesi bottom-trawling scores. Of course, Thompson and Hevesi sent mixed signals for precisely the same reason—Thompson is planning to run in four years and can only do so if the Democratic challenger loses. Hevesi was dialing up donors for his 2001 mayoral run even before he squeezed himself onstage with Messinger the night she lost, striking the pose, as even Hillary Clinton may do this year, of a loyal Democrat. Not only was Schumer's wife working for Giuliani in 1997, she's now a Bloomberg commissioner, and the mayor's campaign employs Schumer's former spokesman and the brother of his chief of staff.

The only way Ferrer can combat these covert Big Dem compromises is by rattling his Latino base. Bronx Democratic boss José Rivera's quotes in El Diario threatening Thompson about 2009 may have forced his endorsement last week, as tepid as it was. No Big Dems will take a Ferrer nosedive if they fear they will pay a Latino price. Gail Collins wrote an Editorial Notebook column in the Times early in 1997 about the sexist underside of the Big Dem abandonment of Messinger—accusing them of "edging away from her and sidling up to Giuliani"—but the boys went on being boys and were never held to account.

Ferrer isn't the candidate yet, though the endorsements of Albany's two top legislative Democrats, Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Senate leader David Paterson, appear imminent. Virginia Fields is still competitive and could go negative, though her spokeswoman insisted Monday that she wouldn't echo her pastor Butts's complaint about Diallo, a wise position since she stayed upstairs in her office overlooking the 1 Police Plaza demonstrations while Ferrer was getting arrested. Miller can afford a bigger TV blitz than his $1.6 million publicly subsidized campaign mailing and increasingly appears to be the Democrat most likely to force a runoff.

NYC comptroller William Thompson (above right) endorses Fernando Ferrer. Calvin Butts (opposite left) grins with Mike Bloomberg at the opening of a Harlem IHOP.
photo: Richard B. Levine
NYC comptroller William Thompson (above right) endorses Fernando Ferrer. Calvin Butts (opposite left) grins with Mike Bloomberg at the opening of a Harlem IHOP.

But barring a transforming event, Fernando Ferrer, 55, who has found a new measured and inclusive campaign tone, will soon be the first Latino Democrat ever nominated for a citywide office. Should it happen, it will be the dawning of a new age in the endlessly racial politics of New York.


Research assistance: Nicole D'Andrea, Bryan Farrell, Alex Gecan, Leslie Kaufmann, Ian Kriegish, and Stephen Stirling

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