Statistics Still Do Lie

Ferrer and Undecided lead muddled Democratic primary pack

All of these disappearing Democrats, especially the disaffected blacks, are good news for Mike Bloomberg, though no one knows if these patterns will hold in November. Incredibly, 74 percent of blacks said that Mike Bloomberg "has strong leadership qualities," higher than Fields (62 percent) and Ferrer (53 percent), when Quinnipiac last posed the question in May. On the other hand, 49 percent of blacks answered "no" when asked if Bloomberg "cares about the needs and problems of people like you," while 28 percent said no about Ferrer. The general election may be a contest between these two assessments, with Bloomberg and his media allies resuscitating Ferrer's Diallo comments. Sixty-two percent of blacks say that Ferrer's statement made them "think less favorably about him" even though Ferrer was arrested at the 1999 protests while Bloomberg and Fields were M.I.A.

If the undecided pool of likely voters is correct—only 16 percent—Ferrer may well be headed for a runoff. He has to pick up almost one in two of the undecided likelies to reach 40 percent. But the other way to look at these numbers is that so many Democrats are turned off that Ferrer may get the magic number because his core vote alone, Latinos, is so turned on, giving him 40 percent of a much smaller total than usual. A runoff against Fields would be a disaster for Ferrer even though he would be almost certain to win it, because it would push even more blacks toward Bloomberg. A runoff against Miller or Weiner might solidify Ferrer's minority base and put a spotlight on him that would help in November. Of course, he could also lose a runoff to a white Democrat, as Mark Green proved. If either Weiner or Miller were to beat him in a runoff, minority turnout in November would plummet and Bloomberg would win a sizable part of it, repeating 2001.

Miller: Dominates debates, subverts reforms
photo: Kate Englund
Miller: Dominates debates, subverts reforms

Weiner: "New Dem" chases the Giuliani vote.
photo: Kate Englund
Behind the number is a primary trench war that is beginning to leave scars. Gifford Miller is winning the debates on issues of substance and record, the only one to spell out ways that Bloomberg has behaved like a Republican on municipal issues, making it clear, for example, that he will rescind the mayor's policy of holding back third-, fifth-, and seventh-graders. But his character gets in the way of his intellect and persuasiveness.

In the NY1 debate, the still-a-rich-kid-at-35 council speaker tried to wiggle defiantly away from a question about whether he'd send his children to public schools, calling it "ridiculous." He filibustered with lines like "my kids are too young," calling out for his wife, Pam, whining that he was being forced to determine where his four- and three-year-old would "spend the next 18 years of education before I have a chance to look at every school."

The Times subsequently reported that one child was already in a private preschool, Park Avenue Christian no less. Should Miller want him to transfer to public school for kindergarten, he would need a waiver that school officials said was never granted. As benignly as the Times recounted Miller's defense, it nonetheless unveiled a cornered Miller as a class-privilege counterpuncher unconcerned about fact. The picture the Times ran with the story showed little Addison putting his hand over his father's mouth in a posed family photo, but Addison was unfortunately not onstage when Miller launched his revisionist tirade.

Not to be outdone, Ferrer doctored his own family's education history. Apparently finding the contrast with Miller's bluster irresistible, Ferrer declared: "My daughter already did graduate from public schools, and she has two little sons who also go to public school." It turned out his daughter went to the same Catholic high school he did for four full years, Cardinal Spellman, an error that Ferrer's spokeswoman told the Voice was merely "a grammatical thing." She added that one of Ferrer's grandchildren was "too young to go to school," though another aide later said the second child would be going to preschool at P.S. 14 in the Bronx in September. The older grandchild, according to Ferrer aides, is already at P.S. 14.

But both candidates have character issues that go beyond their familial distortions. Jill Gardiner reported in The Sun on Friday that Miller is attempting a grotesque end run around the Campaign Finance Board's rules, part of a personal pattern of such abuse. He is well on his way to spending virtually all of the $7.5 million he's raised, unconstrained by the CFB's $5.7 million expenditure cap for the primary. He's doing it by classifying a record $1.2 million in expenses as exempt from the cap, 43 percent of all of the costs he reported up to August 8. These exempt expenses, which include whatever he spends on legal requirements like petitioning and preparing CFB submissions that comply with the law, are running at a rate five times the 7.5 percent baseline assumed by the CFB. He's already claimed a million more than Ferrer.

When Alan Hevesi ran for mayor in 2001, he pioneered the same gimmick and the CFB disallowed nearly $300,000 in exempt claims, but Miller is already nearly a half-million dollars ahead of Hevesi's phony submissions. In fact, since Miller is still circulating a petition to run on a second party line, the Small Class Size Party, he will undoubtedly be adding to his bogus total in the next CFB filing. Most of Miller's literature contains a reference to petitions, suggesting that he may have been claiming it as an exempt expenditure, a charge his spokesman did not respond to. Of course, $2.4 million of his campaign kitty is public funds, supplied by the CFB. That makes this abuse more than a breach of an expenditure limit; it's another example of Miller's self-serving raid on taxpayer funds. He's already been caught using $1.6 million in council funds to put photos of himself in mailboxes all across the city, a mass mailing abuse condemned by every editorial board.

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