Maybe we’ve been spoiled. Was it just a year ago that Hillary Clinton was brazenly suburbanizing herself in Chappaqua, waging a would-be battle royal with Rudy Giuliani? Now Andrew Cuomo’s the one house-hunting, ready to rumble with Carl McCall and avenge his father’s defeat by George Pataki. With story lines like these, who needs a mayor’s race?
Nobody so far. After eight years of being outshouted by Rudy, the Democratic reliables angling for this fall’s primary – Mark Green, Alan Hevesi, Peter Vallone, and Fernando Ferrer – have been upstaged again, by a governor’s race that’s a full two years away. They’re the four horsemen of the anticlimax.
Nothing they’re doing right now is sticking: Mark Green careers right, making a speech offering cops higher salaries, and the story is buried. As if that weren’t enough, the local City Council politicians who could take sides have been busy fighting to save their own jobs from term limits. “If you’re sandwiched between a race with the First Lady and one with the son of a governor who’s married to a Kennedy now running for governor himself, you’re just not going to get attention,” says Green’s campaign adviser, Hank Sheinkopf.
And don’t think the people who are covering the mayor’s race aren’t fidgeting a bit, too, over its low profile. “These four guys have been around a while,” says the Daily News’ Joel Siegel. “There’s not a lot differentiating them.” Andrew Kirtzman of NY1 suggests they might actually want to be below radar: “It’s about positioning themselves for later. It’s Hevesi handling his black problem. It’s Green trying to show he wasn’t just going to open the jails.” Or maybe we have unrealistic expectations. “I might argue that there was too much attention on the Hillary-Rudy race for too long, and it threw people off,” says Adam Nagourney of the Times.
But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt now. Gregg Birnbaum, who doggedly covered the Hillary race for the Post, was expecting the mayor’s race to be a full-time job. Now he finds himself also covering … Bill Clinton’s office-space fiasco.
“Did I think it would be hotter? Yes, I did,” Birnbaum says. “Maybe that was my own misjudgment. After an eighteen-month battle, I’m suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. I’m waiting for the sound of missiles so I can feel more at home.”