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Bloomberg Upset Winner in N.Y.

Election: Republican media magnate defeats Democrat Green in a hard-fought mayoral contest.

November 07, 2001|JOSH GETLIN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

NEW YORK — In a bitterly contested mayoral election that will determine New York's response to the World Trade Center attacks for years to come, Republican media mogul Michael Bloomberg won a stunning upset victory Tuesday over Democrat Mark Green.

The stakes have rarely been higher for the city, and voters had a clear choice between Bloomberg, a political neophyte with proven business skills, and Green, the public advocate and a savvy career politician. Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who backed Bloomberg and played a pivotal role in his triumph, was barred by city law from seeking a third term in office.

With 99% of all precincts reporting, Bloomberg had 711,189 votes to Green's 670,413 and and was poised to continue the Republican domination of City Hall that had gone on for eight years under Giuliani. His victory was a stinging setback for Democrats, who traditionally control local politics in the Big Apple and enjoy a 5-1 registration edge over Republicans.

As he spoke to cheering supporters, flanked by Giuliani and New York Gov. George Pataki, Bloomberg, 59, pledged to bring the city back from the devastation of Sept. 11. "We suffered a terrible tragedy, but we are not going to let the terrorists get us down," he said. "The whole civilized world is watching New York, and we are alive and well and open for business.

FOR THE RECORD
Los Angeles Times Friday November 9, 2001 Home Edition Part A Part A Page 2 A2 Desk 1 inches; 20 words Type of Material: Correction
New York mayor: A story Wednesday on the New York City election misspelled the name of the city's Depression-era mayor. It is Fiorello La Guardia.

"Nobody believed we would do this tonight, but we had faith," he added. "We will face enormous problems in this city, but we are up to the task."

Green, a longtime liberal who recast himself as a moderate with law-and-order credentials, had been expected to win an easy victory as recently as one week ago. But the race was overshadowed and transformed by the World Trade Center attacks. Many voters indicated they were less impressed by partisan labels than who could best lead the city, according to public opinion polls.

"I'm disappointed, but this is a day of hope, because New Yorkers came together and voted," said Green, 56, in a concession speech after midnight. "I have been moved and touched to watch our city get knocked down and then get up again."

Bloomberg ran as a moderate who could bring people together and manage a city facing a $4-billion deficit. He spent $50 million of his own money on the race, a record for a U.S. mayoral contest, and came on strong in the last week, closing a 16-point lead that Green held in several surveys.

"I'm a leader, not a politician," he said repeatedly, suggesting that New York needs a fiscal manager who can persuade business leaders and Washington politicians to give the city billions in badly needed aid.

Giuliani's backing and Bloomberg's saturation airing of TV ads featuring the mayor's endorsement were key factors in Bloomberg's last-minute surge, observers said. There was no other way to explain how a relatively unknown businessman could run so well against a Democrat, they suggested.

"You had an extraordinary political situation developing here, and much of it was generated by the mayor's huge popularity," said consultant Hank Sheinkopf, who helped guide Green's campaign. "After Sept. 11, his whole image changed, and he became a powerful force in this race."

But Green was also threatened by defections and opposition from key leaders in the minority communities, which typically boost Democratic campaigns in the Big Apple. The Rev. Al Sharpton, who exerts significant political influence in the black community, refused to back Green, as did prominent Latino leaders. All were angered by Green's aggressive tactics in his Oct. 18 primary victory over Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer.

Based on early returns, Green was capturing an estimated 75% of the black vote, but barely 49% of the Latino vote, much lower than Democrats usually receive. The close race "shows that Democrats in this city need to repair this party and show concerns for everybody, for every community here."

The mayoral contest had been a lackluster affair during the spring and summer, with candidates failing to excite voters who didn't seem to believe much was at stake. Giuliani, who normally dominated city politics, was distracted by a divorce battle with his estranged wife, Donna Hanover.

Amid this general indifference, Green and Bloomberg were the early front-runners to win the Democratic and GOP nominations for mayor.

The public advocate, who was born in Brooklyn and raised in Long Island, attended Harvard Law School and became an aide to Ralph Nader. He ran unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate twice and was appointed the city's consumer advocate in 1989. During eight years as advocate, he was a persistent thorn in Giuliani's side, criticizing the NYPD for its stop and frisk policies, which he said unfairly targeted minorities. He also became a strong advocate for consumers and seniors.

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