September 14, 2005

Democrat concedes NY mayor primary, averts runoff

By Joseph A. Giannone

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Democrats hoping to unseat Republican
Mayor Michael Bloomberg averted a runoff for their party's
nomination when the runner-up conceded on Wednesday and threw
his support to the top vote-getter in this week's primary.

The move leaves former Bronx Borough President Fernando
Ferrer set to face the popular incumbent Bloomberg in the
November election. Ferrer would be the city's first Latino
mayor if he wins the November 8 general election.

Ferrer, with 39.95 percent of the vote, came just short of
the necessary 40 percent of the votes in Tuesday's primary,
setting up a runoff with the runner-up, U.S. Rep. Anthony
Wiener, in three weeks.

But Wiener, with just 29 percent of the vote in unofficial
results, announced he was putting the Democratic Party first.

"There is a time to campaign and a time to come together.
This is the time to put aside my opportunity for a runoff and
to step aside," Weiner told a news conference.

Ferrer issued a statement thanking Weiner and said he
looked "forward to campaigning with him, and a united
Democratic party ... to take on Mike Bloomberg as we head into

Coming in third in the race was C. Virginia Fields,
Manhattan borough president, with 16 percent of the vote and
Gifford Miller, City Council speaker, placed fourth with 10

For Ferrer, a long-time borough president forced out by
term limits, it will be his third try for mayor after losing
the Democratic primary in 1997 and a runoff against Mark Green
in 2001.

By conceding now, Weiner could help unite Democrats to
focus their efforts on the daunting task of defeating
Bloomberg, who enjoys strong support in opinion polls.

Despite a 5-to-1 lead among the city's registered voters,
Democrats have lost the past three elections for City Hall.

Bloomberg, a lifelong Democrat who switched parties when he
first ran for office, has an enviable war chest -- his own
fortune. Bloomberg spent some $74 million to win a tight race
four years ago, and this time he is expected to spend more than
$100 million.

Unopposed on the Republican ticket, Bloomberg threw himself
a victory party on Tuesday night that let him tout his
accomplishments before a prime time television audience.