New Yorkers Vote in Mayoral Primaries
NEW YORK (Reuters) – New Yorkers chose media mogul Michael Bloomberg as the Republican candidate for mayor on Tuesday, while Democrats Mark Green and Fernando Ferrer were headed for a runoff, according to unofficial results in a mayoral race awash in uncertainty after the World Trade Center attacks.
The dynamics of the race for City Hall have been dramatically changed by the surging popularity of outgoing Mayor Rudolph Giuliani in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, with widespread calls for him to stay in office despite laws barring him from seeking a third consecutive term.
It remained unclear whether that sentiment would translate into a widespread write-in campaign for Giuliani in Tuesday’s primaries or in the Nov. 6 general election or if there was a way for the Giuliani camp to have the term limit laws lifted.
No official results of the primaries — or any write-in campaign — were expected until the weekend because the city’s computerized election system was knocked out in the attacks by the two hijacked passenger planes that felled the twin towers.
Exit polls by NY1 News, NBC and Fox showed Bloomberg defeating former U.S. Rep. Herman Badillo 2-to-1 in the Republican race. A political novice, Bloomberg spent more than $20 million of his personal fortune on his campaign.
Among the Democrats, exit polls showed no candidate won the requisite 40 percent, forcing a run-off on Oct. 11.
The front-runners were Public Advocate Green with 34 percent and Bronx Borough President Ferrer with 32 percent, according to NY1. Trailing were City Council Speaker Peter Vallone with 19 percent and Comptroller Alan Hevesi with 13 percent.
Fox News showed similar results.
Democrats outnumber Republicans 5-to-1 in New York. Only three Republicans, including Giuliani, were elected mayor in the 20th century.
Bloomberg, speaking to supporters over chants of “We Want Mike,” said: “I know we will win in November. And then we are going to put together the best team that this city has ever seen, including, I hope, many from the current administration, and together we will take New York forward.”
“The events of the last two weeks make me want to do this job even more,” Bloomberg said.
For some New Yorkers, it was their second trip to the primary polls. The primaries were first held on the day of the attacks but were canceled at midday and rescheduled for Sept. 25.
Votes cast the first time will not count, officials said.
Asked in the NY1 poll if they had changed their minds since the attacks, 88 percent of Democrats said no and 10 percent said yes.
Evidence of some write-ins for Giuliani
Two percent said they had not planned to vote in the original primary but decided to vote in this contest.
Turnout was extremely light, with polls showing only about 15 percent of the 3.6 million eligible voters showed up.
The candidates’ campaigns came to a halt the day of the attacks, which plunged the city into mourning over the approximately 6,500 people killed or missing in the ruins of the twin towers.
There was no glad-handing of voters and no upbeat rallies. Primary night celebrations were muted and low-key.
Green told NY1 he was “content, confident, serene and a little sad.”
“Normally on an election night you are a little anxious, waiting for a celebration, but not tonight,” he said.
The results showing Green and Ferrer as front-runners reflected polls taken days before the original primary.
Fifteen percent of Republican voters said they wrote in candidates but did not reveal them, the NY1 exit poll said.
Anecdotal evidence showed signs of a write-in campaign. Lines at polls in one section of Queens moved slowly as workers explained to voters how the write-in process worked.
Some people cast votes in a makeshift polling station on Wall Street in the heart of the city’s devastated financial district.
Voter Donna Spivey said she wanted to write in Giuliani.
“How can you not vote for him? It would be almost un-American,” she said.
Voter Angela Gilchrist disagreed, saying: “We have to get behind the next mayor. You just can’t change the system overnight because some guy has just become an angel.”
Changing the term limits law — approved by city voters in 1993 and 1996 — would require emergency legislation by the state Legislature or a change in the City Charter by the City Council. Political experts say both possibilities are remote.
Although his aides told local media they were working behind the scenes to win support for overturning the law, Giuliani dismissed suggestions that voters write in his name.
“Choose among the candidates. It would make no sense to write my name in,” he said on Monday. “I need time to reflect on what I’m going to do, and it wouldn’t involve the primary anyway.”
He was first elected in 1993 and re-elected in 1997.