Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-N.Y.) may have gained the most from New York City’s Democratic primary last week, but he was not the only winner in the city’s 13-Member Congressional delegation, or among some of the politicians preparing to run for Congress in 2006.
Although he finished second to former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer (D) in the mayoral primary, Weiner emerged with a rosy glow in Democratic circles thanks to his unexpected decision to concede to Ferrer and avert a potentially bloody runoff between the two (though a count of absentee ballots completed Sunday suggests there wouldn’t have been a runoff after all). Without much institutional support or name recognition, Weiner ran a remarkably effective campaign, finishing with 29 percent of the vote.
If Ferrer defeats Republican incumbent Michael Bloomberg, Weiner can claim credit for helping his former rival make history by becoming New York’s first Latino mayor. If Ferrer loses, Bloomberg is term-limited in 2009, and Weiner, who is just 41, will be a front-runner for the prize.
Rep. Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.) recalled that when another Gotham colleague, Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), ran for the position of House Caucus vice chairman in 2002, Crowley and Weiner counseled him to defer to the top finisher, Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.), rather than force a runoff and create divisions within the Congressional Black Caucus.
“He took his own advice,” Crowley said of Weiner.
Another politician who came out looking good in the wake of the primary: Weiner’s former boss and longtime mentor, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.). Schumer reportedly counseled Weiner that fighting Ferrer in the runoff would do no good for the Congressman’s political career or to the Democratic Party, whichever man won.
On the other hand, Schumer — who all along has pledged to support the winner of the Democratic primary — faces a conundrum.
His wife, Iris Weinshall, is Bloom- berg’s transportation commissioner. His former chief of staff, Josh Isay, is now a political consultant in New York who counts Bloomberg as a client. His former spokesman, Stu Loeser, is now a campaign spokesman for the mayor. And Bloomberg last year endorsed Schumer’s re-election.
Will Schumer campaign vigorously for Ferrer? Stay tuned.
Schumer wasn’t the only member of the New York delegation with a protégé in the mayor’s race. City Council Speaker Gifford Miller (D), who finished a dismal fourth in the primary, is a former top aide to Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.). Depending on what he decides to do after his council term ends on New Year’s Eve, Miller, who is just 35, may still be seen as a potential successor to the 57-year-old Congresswoman whenever she decides to move on.
Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) was the only Member of the city’s Congressional delegation to remain neutral in the mayoral primary. But he had a rooting interest farther down the ballot. State Assemblyman Scott Stringer (D) — Nadler’s successor in Albany who served as his top aide for many years — bested eight other Democrats last Tuesday in the primary for Manhattan borough president. (In a sign of how tribal New York politics are, one of the people Stringer defeated is a former city council member who defeated Stringer’s mother in a bitter Council primary a generation ago.)
Stringer is a shoo-in to win the November general election, for a job Nadler never managed to win himself. Nadler ran unsuccessfully for Manhattan borough president in 1985 when he was still in the Assembly, losing the primary to David Dinkins, who went on to become the city’s first, and so far only, black mayor.
And speaking of tribal, seeking vengeance on one of the two City Councilmembers who ran against him in last year’s Democratic primary, Rep. Major Owens (D-N.Y.) injected himself into two primaries for City Council on Tuesday. Both of his candidates lost — one of them to Councilwoman Yvette Clarke (D), who finished second to Owens in the 2004 Congressional primary, just as her mother did in a challenge to Owens four years earlier.
But the “Family Feud” aspect of that part of central Brooklyn, where Owens is retiring next year after 12 terms in Congress, goes even further.
Tuesday’s results brought good news to Clarke — and a measure of satisfaction, perhaps, to Owens — when the patriarch of the powerful Boyland family was clobbered in an open-seat council primary. Councilwoman Tracy Boyland (D), who finished third in the House race against Owens last year, was term-limited, but her father, a former state Assemblyman, tried unsuccessfully to win the seat. He lost badly to a political neophyte who works for the city’s transit agency.
The elder Boyland’s defeat may spell trouble for Tracy Boyland, who, like Clarke, is contemplating seeking Owens’ open Congressional seat next year. The Congressman’s son, health care administrator Chris Owens, is also seeking the seat, as are state Sen. Carl Andrews (D) and City Councilman David Yassky (D).
In the mayor’s race, Major Owens was one of six New York Members — along with Crowley, Meeks, José Serrano, Edolphus Towns and Nydia Velázquez — who endorsed Ferrer. Serrano endorsed Ferrer even though he defeated Serrano for the Bronx borough president’s job in a special vote of the Bronx’s City Council delegation when the position was vacant in 1987.
It doesn’t appear that there will be any retribution to the other Democrats in the New York Congressional delegation who endorsed the mayoral also-rans: Maloney and Rep. Gary Ackerman, who backed Miller; Rep. Charlie Rangel, who supported Manhattan Borough President C. Virginia Fields (D); Nadler, who remained uncommitted; or Rep. Eliot Engel, who endorsed Weiner.
Engel, in fact, was willing to bask in some of Weiner’s reflected glow last week right after Weiner conceded to Ferrer.
“I’m so proud of Anthony,” he said. “I endorsed Anthony when he was at 4 percent [in the polls] because I felt that he would come up when people got to know about him.”
But Ferrer’s victory has to be somewhat awkward for Engel. The two have a cool relationship; throughout his 30-year career, Engel has been at odds with the Bronx Democratic organization, while Ferrer is a product of the “clubhouse.” Back in 2000, Bronx party leaders supported a state Senator who was challenging Engel in the Democratic primary.
“Freddy Ferrer will determine now if he’s going to be a unifying figure or a divisive figure,” Engel said.
He conceded, however: “The things that have made me uncomfortable with him in the past remain now.”
So at least some of that Democratic unity so vividly on display after Weiner’s withdrawal may not be that strong after all.