Fernando Ferrer’s campaign against Michael Bloomberg began a little after 1 p.m. today as some 300 boisterous supporters gathered in the glare of the midday sun on the City Hall steps. It was a gathering of much of the Democratic clan, with state controller Alan Hevesi, a couple dozen state legislators, and numerous city council members past and present.
While many who had battled Ferrer in the past made a point of being there, such as state senator Eric Schneiderman who beat back a Ferrer-supported challenge to his own seat two years ago, there were also glaring absences including that of Mark Green, the 2001 Democratic mayoral candidate who famously battled Ferrer in a bitter runoff. (“No one invited me,” Green said later when asked.)
But the central supporting roles at the rally were played by Ferrer’s most recent combatants – C. Virginia Fields, Gifford Miller, and Anthony Weiner – each of whom gave Ferrer a warm, public embrace and a pledge to work for his election. Led by an ecstatic state Democratic Party chairman, Herman “Denny” Farrell, the also-rans praised the ex-Bronx Borough President, and ticked off their own talking points for the coming campaign against the incumbent mayor.
It went something like this:
“This is Michael Bloomberg’s worst nightmare. All these Democrats together, and the beginning of the end of his administration.” (Farrell)
“I’m tired of stopping a Republican mayor from doing the wrong thing. I want a mayor who’s going to do the right thing, and that mayor is Freddy Ferrer.” (Miller)
“They hoped we would destroy each other, [fight so much] that we couldn’t look each other in the face. But there was a bigger goal, unity.” (Fields)
“We’ve seen a barrage of ads from Michael Bloomberg saying everything is O.K. Democrats know that’s never good enough. … We are all 100 percent committed to making billionaire Michael Bloomberg a one-term mayor.” (Weiner)
And then there was Ferrer: “Today the real fight for Democratic values begins,” he said. Occasionally mopping his brow in the humid heat, Ferrer read from a loose-leaf binder. Whether it was the heat or the claustrophobic closeness of the scrum of cameras and reporters jammed in before him, the would-be nominee seemed to lose all juice after a sprightly start. For a few minutes, his voice dropped to a barely discernible mumble amid the buzz of the crowd. But then he revived. He raised his head from the printed page, and picked up steam again. “We can do better than a mayor who says not many people in this city make minimum wage,” he said. “We can do better than a mayor who cuts sweetheart deals with developers at a time of a crisis in affordable housing. . .better than a mayor who let 100,000 New Yorkers slip into poverty.”
Ferrer then looked over his shoulder at the ten steps-worth of supporters waving his signs and said: “It is a long journey for a kid who shined shoes on the corner of 149th Street and Southern Boulevard to this spot,” he said. “I am running for mayor because I believe hope and opportunity ought to be on every street, on every block…we will build a new city, a city of hope.”
Behind him, the crowd broke into a chant: “New Yorkers, United, Will Never be defeated,” they sang, a doctored version of the old left-wing demonstration slogan which went “The people, united…”