Don’t expect the biggest turnout in Tuesday’s primary to occur in the most populous borough, Queens, or the Bronx home county of frontrunner Freddy Ferrer. There’s no undercard in either county.
The Bronx and Queens Democratic organizations have such a tight grip on borough politics that there are only three competitive City Council races in the two counties combined, and no boroughwide challenges. That may well diminish turnout for Ferrer in the Bronx, making him a victim of his own organization’s success. With a vacant council seat in the Bronx and only two Queens incumbents facing strong opponents, there’s very little electoral excitement at the grassroots to generate a big vote at the top of the ballot.
Manhattan and Brooklyn is where the action is. Nine candidates for Manhattan borough president and a war for district attorney guarantee a large Manhattan turnout, even if there’s little excitement about the mayoral candidates. So do tough city council fights all over the borough, with four races for open seats all the way down the eastside. Latino candidates for council and borough president may push up the Ferrer vote, especially in East Harlem, the Lower Eastside and Washington Heights. Races in Gifford Miller’s and Eva Moskowitz’s old council districts will help Miller. Intense fights for two black districts may generate Ferrer or Virginia Fields votes. One measure of the comparative intensity of the Manhattan races is the $4.4 million in matching funds given by the Campaign Finance Board to the borough president candidates, as opposed to none in 2001.
Another $3.4 million has been spent by Robert Morgenthau and Leslie Crocker Snyder in the DA race, which, combined with the rest of the Manhattan ballot, may make it the borough with the biggest bang on primary day. Topping off the Brooklyn ballot is a four-way fight for district attorney and a three-way battle for surrogate. Most of the most competitive council races are in black and Latino districts, especially the vacant seat held by the term-limited Tracy Boyland. The undercard in Brooklyn could pump up Ferrer numbers, much like the lack of one in the Bronx deflates it.