News & Politics

Freddy’s Surprising Black Base


As election day draws closer in an electorate that—for the first time in history—has a minority majority, a Voice review of Primary Day election results revealed that Democratic mayoral candidate Fernando Ferrer ran much stronger among black voters in the primary than polls and pundits had predicted.

An analysis of primary voting in the city’s 17 assembly districts that are represented by black assembly-members found that Ferrer drew an average of 45 percent of the vote—15 percentage points above Manhattan Borough President Virginia Fields, a black candidate, and 14 above what a popular poll had predicted.

What’s more significant about Ferrer’s vote share in those districts is how little it declined from four years ago. In his 2001 race against Mark Green, Alan Hevesi and Peter Vallone—where there was no other minority candidate—Freddy received a 50 percent voting average in those same black districts—just five percent higher than in this year’s primary.

While political analysts and the media dubbed Fields a strong competitor for the black vote—with the Quinnipiac Polling Institute predicting a Ferrer-Fields split at 31 and 30 percent just days before the primary—the numbers show a different story. And despite the Diallo comments that sent his poll-marks plummeting and outraged many in the black community, Ferrer carried all but three of the 17 black-represented assembly districts.

The three he didn’t clutch were District 70 in Fields’ Harlem, and Districts 29 and 32 in Queens, which favored Fields by two and one percentage points respectively. Ferrer’s highest marks, not surprisingly, were in Districts 77 and 79 in the Bronx, where he served as borough president for 13 years. But he also drew 38 percent and higher in every black-represented district in Brooklyn and Queens.

Quinnipiac’s most-recent poll predicts that Bloomberg will draw 39 percent of the black vote, and Ferrer 46. That, according to Bruce Berg, chairman of the political science Department at Fordham University, is still not enough for any Democrat to win.

“I think Ferrer will carry the black vote in the general election,” Berg says. “But in order for any Democrat to win in New York City, that percentage has to be approaching 90 percent.”

Assemblyman Carl Heastie, who represents Bronx District 83, believes Ferrer might get just that. Although skeptics point out that Ferrer finished with 97,000 votes less in this year’s primary than in 2001, voter turnout in black assemblies was just 55 percent of what it was in 2001—a difference of 124,000 votes—and total voter turnout was just 17 percent. But the looming difference between these two elections is that there was no black candidate in 2001, and the black candidate in this election received nearly 73,000 votes.

“The black vote is the most loyal democratic vote in the city, and I believe over 80 percent of the black vote will be there with him when its all said and done,” said Heastie, whose district is 72 percent black and favored Ferrer by 51 percent. “As more polls are done in next couple of weeks, I believe the gap will close.”

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on September 23, 2005

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