The New York Times

October 10, 2001


In Unsettling Times, Anxious Voters May Rely on Endorsements From Familiar Faces

By JIM DWYER

Tomorrow morning, the polls will open for the third time in a month, and New Yorkers will find that the players are changing sides faster than three-on-three pickup teams in a schoolyard basketball game.

Allies of the old days — going back as far as Labor Day — are now hissing and woofing at each other.

Enemies of days bygone — say, two weeks ago — are cooing sweet endearments into TV cameras.

Yesterday, the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association announced that it was backing Mark Green in the Democratic mayoral runoff, in the process joining sides with former Mayor David N. Dinkins — the foil of an infamous P.B.A. rally in 1992 that ended with officers storming the Dinkins City Hall.

This time around, former Mayor Edward I. Koch is backing Fernando Ferrer, joining the Rev. Al Sharpton, whose first arrest for civil disobedience came on orders from Mayor Koch in 1978.

Behind the momentary alliances and the flags of convenience, this may be the first year in a long time that political endorsements actually do move voters, according to the candidates and their surrogates. The sight of familiar faces may help settle anxious voters.

''The endorsement of people who have favorable reputations will help Ferrer,'' Mr. Koch said. The P.B.A.'s support for Mr. Green, he said, is a ''very valuable endorsement.''

Mr. Ferrer, in search of a greater share of white voters, has been running TV ads that feature his recent endorsements by Mr. Koch, Geraldine A. Ferraro, Daniel Patrick Moynihan and Peter F. Vallone.

Mr. Vallone, the City Council speaker and third-place finisher in the mayoral race, and Mr. Ferrer agreed before the primary to endorse whichever of them made it into the runoff expected with Mr. Green, according to sources in both camps.

Last week, Mr. Koch said he was ''very worried'' — the oral italics are his — about the prospect of Mr. Ferrer's becoming mayor and permitting Mr. Sharpton to choose the next police commissioner.

A few days later, after Mr. Green said he would support an extension of Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani's term, Mr. Koch called the Ferrer campaign and offered his endorsement. Some polls now show Mr. Ferrer getting an increasing share of the white vote.

''I don't claim I had anything to do with a huge change in the polls,'' Mr. Koch said. ''I don't believe that happens with anyone. That I had some impact, I am sure.''

On the other hand, Mr. Giuliani's endorsement would carry tremendous weight, Mr. Koch said. ''Without a doubt, that would be the biggest one,'' Mr. Koch said.

This was not the case six weeks ago, before the city came under attack by terrorists and Mr. Giuliani won praise for his steady hand.

As of Labor Day, Mr. Giuliani had a long string of losing endorsements. He seemed to have developed a new twist on the Midas touch: whomever he supported turned into a muffler. Mr. Giuliani has not backed any mayoral candidates this year.

Although self-interest is built into the endorsement process, the chairman of Mr. Ferrer's campaign, Roberto Ramirez, said there was not much deal-making.

''It is not as crass and crude as most people believe,'' Mr. Ramirez said. ''Believe it or not, the glue that keeps it together is a sense of honor — that people will honor both the priorities and things that you consider important.''

Also important, he said, is that the politicians not hate each other. But even when personalities do not click, mutual self-interest does fine.

Alan G. Hevesi, the city comptroller and fourth-place finisher in the primary, has thrown in with Mr. Green, who is now pelting Mr. Ferrer with charges of divisiveness — charges that Mr. Hevesi said were unwarranted while he was still in the race. Since Mr. Hevesi still holds the Liberal Party line, he could run in the general election for mayor against Mr. Ferrer.

Mario M. Cuomo, the former governor, endorsed Mr. Green earlier this week. People familiar with the endorsement process said Mr. Cuomo and Mr. Green were not friends. Still, Mr. Cuomo's son Andrew is running for governor next year against H. Carl McCall, a Ferrer supporter.

Besides Mr. Cuomo and former Police Commissioner William J. Bratton, Mr. Green has been backed by many of the public safety unions — fire officers, Emergency Medical Service workers and yesterday the P.B.A. — whose enormous sacrifices on Sept. 11 have commanded broad public reverence. Yet some of the endorsement agendas are freighted with sobering political realities.

The emergency workers' union had backed Mr. Green months ago, when it was heavily critical of Thomas Von Essen, the fire commissioner.

Yesterday, Patrick Bankhen, the union president, declined to say if he had asked Mr. Green to promise that Mr. Von Essen would be removed. ''It would be inappropriate to criticize at this time,'' Mr. Bankhen said. ''Our core issues remain.''

Joseph DePlasco, a spokesman for Mr. Green, said the candidate had made no promises on appointments. Some commissioners may be asked to stay, he said.

The endorsement from the P.B.A. came at a peculiar news conference in which the union president, Patrick Lynch, gave a brief prepared statement, followed by Mr. Green, who accepted the endorsement with a promise to give the officers a fair contract and better precincts, and to improve the disciplinary process.

Because neither Mr. Lynch nor Mr. Green took questions, there was no discussion of Mr. Green's requests for federal civil rights investigations of the Police Department, or his reports stating that officers accused of brutality often went unpunished.