Déjà vu. It’s almost scary how close this race for mayor is shaping up as a repeat of the past. Been there, done that. However, at the end of the day, it was a disaster for Democrats.
The year was 2001. The Democratic field for mayor was crowded then, as it is now.
In 2001, the Democratic candidates for mayor were Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer, City Council Speaker Peter Vallone, Comptroller Alan Hevesi, and former Public Advocate Mark Green.
The successful campaign that Public Advocate Bill de Blasio is running (in which he could literally borrow some lyrics from Beyonce’s song “Irreplaceable,” “to the left, to the left”) is not new by any means. The great news for de Blasio: Polling does indicate he has a shot at avoiding a run-off, which requires de Blasio obtain 40 percent of the vote.
In 2001, Fernando Ferrer faced the same situation. Ferrer actually won the crowded first primary with 34 percent, but failed to win the necessary 40 percent to secure the nomination. Ferrer would ultimately lose a divisive runoff to Mark Green following the September 11th terrorist attack on the World Trade Center towers.
Ironically Ferrer ran on a platform of a “Tale of Two New Yorks.” Sound familiar? That’s right, it’s basically the same identical platform that Deblasio is running on now.
But please, you explain it to me? “Two New Yorks,” and perhaps his son’s “Afro,” has pushed de Blasio to the top of the field, but Ferrer with the same exact theme was widely criticized at the time in 2001 as being too divisive.
The test for de Blasio. With the front-runner bulls-eye now squarely on de Blasio’s back, it remains to be seen if he can coast through Primary Day and pull off 40 percent of the vote. In my opinion it is highly unlikely, though de Blasio did accurately predict to me privately that he was going to surge to the top of the pack.
Perhaps just as remarkable, Deblasio has run so far to the left, he actually polling better (as of now) with African-American voters than the African-American candidate in the race, Bill Thompson.
De Blasio really should pick up the phone and give Ferrer a call.
Anything can happen in a run-off. Being on the offensive in today news cycle, could be the landmine you never saw coming, and don’t recover from.
Ferrer, too, was almost the Democratic nominee out-right, but ended up losing the run-off to Green. And Deblasio should talk to Ferrer and Green about how divisive a run-off can actually get. That’s exactly how a political novice by the name of Michael Bloomberg was able to win, and then, go on to three terms. Had Ferrer and Green had played nice-nice with each other, in all likelihood the city would have only known Bloomberg as a very successful businessman, and not as a mayor.
That brings me to my final point. If the Democrats are not careful, this year can be a repeat of 2001, and another Republican could go on to win Gracie Mansion. Unlikely, but that’s exactly what was said about Bloomberg. After the bitter run-off in 2001, it was Bloomberg who ran the ads promising to unite the city, and he has never looked back.
Warning to Democrats. Be careful. It’s starting to look like a circle is forming with the firing squad.