The five days coming up will be devoted to one last long summer weekend, but by Tuesday, September 13, New York residents and especially members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender community need to be ready to make some important decisions.
That is the day of the city primary, when voters will choose—for the most part, in Democratic Party contests—candidates for the November election. Given the enormous numerical advantage Democrats have in this city, in many cases—in the public advocate race, in the Manhattan borough president race, in district attorney contests, and for the relatively small number of open City Council seats (though many of them in Manhattan)—winning the primary is tantamount to election.
Ironically, in the most important contest, the Democratic mayoral primary, victory on September 13 does not mean a free ticket to office. In fact, if one of the four fails to reach the 40 percent threshold that day, the two top vote getters will have to compete again in a run-off two weeks later. And of course, the ultimate Democratic nominee still faces long odds against a self-financed billionaire mayor, Michael Bloomberg, who is enjoying the strongest poll numbers of his nearly four years in office.
The stakes are far too high for the LGBT community to write off the November contest at this very early stage as a foregone conclusion. Nearly four years after 9-11, with a crater still occupying 16 acres of lower Manhattan, the local economy still reeling from that catastrophe, and public schools showing only one clearly positive sign—among many indicators—of progress under direct mayoral control, Bloomberg has much to answer for. In our community, the mayor needs to explain why he moved against our interests on our three major local political goals—by appealing a favorable gay marriage ruling in February, by challenging in court a law that would give a fair shake to the domestic partners of gay employees of contractors doing business with the city, and by refusing to implement a school bullying law that would protect students from a range of abuses including homophobic and transphobic harassment.
The four Democrats in the race—former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer, Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields, City Council Speaker Gifford Miller, and Congressman Anthony Weiner—all have outstanding records on LGBT issues. But, the community and the Democrats must choose the candidate best able to take the fight to Bloomberg in November. Should there be a run-off, the top two candidates must also pledge to avoid the disgraceful racial divisions that marked the endgame between Ferrer and former Public Advocate Mark Green four years ago.
Elsewhere, Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum faces a spirited challenge from former New York Civil Liberties Union executive director Norman Siegel, and both the Manhattan and Brooklyn district attorneys—Robert Morgenthau and Joe Hynes, respectively—could lose the jobs each has held for many years.
The Manhattan borough president’s race, with nine candidates, is wide open, with two openly gay and lesbian candidates, City Councilwoman Margarita Lopez and attorney Brian Ellner.
In Council races around the city, Rosie Mendez, a lesbian Democrat who has served Lopez as chief of staff, hopes to succeed her in the Second District on the Lower East Side, while the Democrat who wins the nod for the District Four seat being given up by Eva Moskowitz on the East Side will face off in November against Patrick Murphy, a gay Republican.
Gay City News will announce those candidates it is supporting in the primary in next week’s issue, but as we move toward September 13 we will all be better off to the extent that we learn more about the choices we are facing in the 2005 elections. Today, more than ever, the information is at our fingertips.