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Latino Vote No Longer A Lock, Moving Toward G.O.P.

By Ron Howell, Jessica Kowal and Curtis L. Taylor

November 8, 2001
Copyright © 2001
Newsday, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Latino Vote No Longer A Lock

The city's Democratic Party is undergoing a sea change as it loses the support of Latinos, one of its largest and historically most loyal ethnic groups, analysts said yesterday after Michael Bloomberg's stunning mayoral victory.

More than 100,000 Latinos voted for the Republican candidate, splitting the group close to evenly between Bloomberg and Democrat Mark Green, according to one exit poll.

"This should really be a wake-up call to the Democratic Party," said Angelo Falcon, senior policy executive with the Puerto Rican Legal Defense Fund. "The way he [Green] was able to basically use the race card showed how disconnected he was from the black and Latino base of the Democratic Party," said Falcon, referring to the Green campaign's alleged use of racially tinged tactics in the runoff last month against Fernando Ferrer, who is of Puerto Rican descent.

Some Latinos who were at odds with Green all but chortled yesterday over his loss.

"I took the day off," said Bronx Assemb. Jose Rivera, saying he did absolutely no campaigning for Green on Tuesday. "Mark Green's people thought they could prove they could win without the Latino vote. They gave it their best shot, and they failed."

Rivera noted that his own son, City Councilman Joel Rivera, had crossed party lines to endorse Bloomberg.

Bronx Democratic Party leader Roberto Ramirez, one of Green's most vocal critics, said he was stunned by Green's defeat. He insisted that the party must now do some soul searching and make aggressive efforts to woo Latinos, African-Americans and others who felt alienated from Green's campaign.

Ramirez said state and city Democratic leaders have to ask themselves, "How does it [the Democratic Party] come to accept the basic notion that there is a new political landscape in New York?"

One of Green's main advisers, political consultant Henry Sheinkopf, acknowledged that the Democratic Party is in a crisis.

The cruel reality for Democrats, Sheinkopf said, is that once people cross party lines in the voting booth, they find it easier to do it in future elections.

"The nature of New York City politics is being challenged," Sheinkopf said. "People are losing their rigidity in urban centers and voting for Republicans, and once they vote Republican, it's going to be easier to do it again, and it's going to be tough to bring them back en masse."

Falcon accused whites in the Democratic Party of slowly but notably shedding their social liberalism in recent years. As a consequence, many Hispanics and blacks are beginning to question their traditional allegiance to the party, he said.

Ferrer said yesterday that he expects some people within the party to blame him. In words dripping with sarcasm, he placed blame at the feet of the Green campaign.

"Look, when a 30-point lead evaporates in three weeks, I'm sure there'll be a lot of fingers pointed in a lot of different directions," Ferrer said. "I'm not an expert on these things. I'm the guy who lost, remember?"

City's Hispanics Shift, Moving Toward G.O.P.


November 8, 2001
Copyright © 2001
THE NEW YORK TIMES. All Rights Reserved.

In an election year in which the city's mayoral candidates reached out to Hispanic New Yorkers as never before, voter surveys showed that Hispanic voters have responded in kind.

They, too, behaved in ways never before seen: 47 percent of the Latinos who went to the polls on Tuesday voted for Michael R. Bloomberg, the Republican candidate, who narrowly won the election against Mark Green, a Democrat.

That percentage, 47, is four points higher than the one Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani received from Latino voters in 1997, records show. Still, Mr. Green got 49 percent of the Latino vote Tuesday night, leaving him in a statistical tie with Mr. Bloomberg.

The evenly split Latino vote is a radical change in New York City, where the Latino vote has long been assumed to go to a Democrat.

"The fact that Bloomberg got more Latinos than Giuliani is amazing," said Angelo Falcón, senior policy executive with the Puerto Rican Legal Defense and Education Fund and a close follower of city politics. "It should shake the Democratic party to its foundation.

"For too long, the Democrats have taken the Latino vote for granted," Mr. Falcón added. "They have insulted us. They have ignored us, and still we voted for them. No more."

In fact, the Latino vote for Democrats has been slipping gradually since 1989, the year statistics from exit polls began to be recorded. In 1989, Mayor David N. Dinkins got 64 percent of the Latino vote, and 60 percent four years later. In 1997, Ruth W. Messinger got 57 percent.

Mr. Falcón attributes the even lower percentage for Mr. Green to the rage many Latino voters felt toward him for running what they have described as a racially charged and harsh campaign against Fernando Ferrer, the Bronx borough president and the preferred candidate among Latino New Yorkers. With Mr. Ferrer out of the race, many Latinos voted against Mr. Green or stayed home.

Eighteen percent of the voters identified themselves as Hispanics in exit polls Tuesday night; by comparison, 24 percent of the voters in the primary runoff, in which Mr. Ferrer was battling Mr. Green, described themselves as Latinos.

Raúl Amador, a 61-year-old accountant who lives in Woodhaven, Queens, did not vote Tuesday, he said. But if he had, he would have voted for Mr. Bloomberg.

"If it wasn't going to be Ferrer, then, frankly, it didn't matter that much who among these two Americans won," he said. "Ferrer was one of us. The other two are about the same."

Except, he added, that Mr. Bloomberg is a billionaire and that makes Mr. Amador more inclined to trust him, he said.

"You figure someone with so much money would want to give to us, not take from us," said Mr. Amador, who is from Nicaragua and recalls the way in which presidents and mayors in that country have enriched themselves while in power.

But Maria Rivera, who was born in Puerto Rico but has lived in the South Bronx for two decades, did not think about Mr. Bloomberg's money or even in Mr. Ferrer's loss when she made her decision to vote for Mr. Green.

As a lifelong Democrat and the mother of two children, one of whom has a learning disability, she voted for Mr. Green because she liked the ideas he proposed to improve public education, she said.

"I thought about going for Bloomberg, but briefly," Ms. Rivera, 36, said. "Now, all we can hope for is that he will do everything he has promised to do."

Raúl Rodríguez, too, voted for Mr. Green. Mr. Rodríguez, a 43-year-old carpenter from East Harlem, said he had always voted for a Democrat and could not imagine voting for a Republican, no matter how disappointed he was at Mr. Ferrer's loss.

"Bloomberg has no political experience," he said during his lunch break yesterday at a Kentucky Fried Chicken. "What can we expect from someone with no experience in government? It will all be a surprise, like a box a chocolates."

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