After a frantic evening of politicking, during which dozens of candidates—including all four Democratic mayoral hopefuls—appeared before the Lambda Independent Democrats, Brooklyn’s LGBT political club, Congressman Anthony Weiner emerged as the group’s choice for the September 13 primary that will select a Democrat to take on incumbent Republican Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Weiner’s victory was hard-fought, coming on the third ballot. A candidate must win a clean majority for endorsement, and on each round, the lowest vote-getter is eliminated. C. Virginia Fields, the Manhattan borough president, was knocked off in the first round, followed by City Council Speaker Gifford Miller after the second ballot. Weiner defeated former Bronx Borough Pres. Fernando Ferrer in the final vote, though the club did not release the tally.
According to Alan Fleishman, a former club president and Park Slope Democratic district leader who supports Ferrer, the total number of votes declined between the first ballot and the final tally, taken around midnight, from roughly 75 to 45.
“Freddy’s problem was that his supporters didn’t hang in there long enough,” Fleishman said.
Scott Klein, a Weiner supporter who like Fleishman has been a Lambda member for more than two decades, said his candidate prevailed because he presents the most dynamic challenge to Bloomberg in November. Explaining that he attended an earlier gay mayoral forum and was prepared to leave after Ferrer, who he thought he would be supporting, spoke, Klein said he hung around a little longer to hear from Weiner.
“I stayed and the guy blew me away,” he recalled. “He is incredibly smart. I want Bloomberg beaten, and this guy has the vision, the intelligence, the humor to win over Bloomberg voters, to get votes on Staten Island.”
While several club members, speaking off the record, said the mayor may be hard to beat this year, Klein said, I wouldn’t be putting this energy in if I didn’t think it was doable.”
Fleishman noted that at least one club member, opposed to Weiner’s support for the war in Iraq and the Patriot Act, charged the congressman “has blood on his hands.”
Klein acknowledged that he has differences with Weiner, but that the congressman has said he’s learned hard lessons both about Iraq and the civil liberties dangers of the Patriot Act. Klein noted that of the candidates who spoke at the earlier mayoral forum he attended, only Weiner spoke out about universal health care. He also said Weiner’s support for same-sex marriage in his first race for Congress in 1998 in a Brooklyn-Queens district that includes significant numbers of Orthodox Jewish voters represented unusual political courage.
Fleishman noted that among other progressive central Brooklyn Democratic clubs, Miller has won the support of the Independent Neighborhood Democrats and Ferrer the endorsement of the Central Brooklyn Independent Democrats.
Among other endorsements Lambda made this week were nods to Norman Siegel, the former head of the New York Civil Liberties Union who is challenging incumbent Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum, and to Norma Jean Jennings, a Lambda member seeking a judiciary position.
The club has not yet taken a position among the crowded field of Democratic candidates challenging incumbent District Attorney Joe Hynes.