Monday, July 13, 2009
Mark Green Runs For Public Advocate...Please Say It Aint So
On monday, July 13, 2009, the New York Times has the following article:
July 13, 2009
Back on the Campaign Trail, Despite His 2006 Vow
By DAVID W. CHEN, NY TIMES
Outside the Fairway market on the Upper West Side the other day, not far from the cartons of strawberries and cases of Fiji Water, a voice pleaded for attention. “I’m Mark Green, Democrat for public advocate,” it said again and again, as shoppers headed in and out of the store. “If you sign my petition for 30 seconds, I can get on the ballot to run for office again.”
A handful of people recognized Mr. Green, the man who three years ago declared he would never again seek office.
But most did not break stride. So Mr. Green cupped his hand to his face and shouted: “If you sign, I get on the ballot. If you don’t, I’ll cry.”
It was not that long ago that Mr. Green drew far more notice, almost defeating a billionaire named Michael R. Bloomberg in the 2001 mayor’s race, and falling to a political scion named Andrew M. Cuomo in the 2006 primary for attorney general. But this time, he is part of the undercard in another general election, and facing unexpected challenges as he tries to reclaim a job that he occupied for much of the 1990s.
He has raised relatively little money. He has collected a fraction of the endorsements he received in the past. With few major politicians, unions or Democratic clubs as allies, he is collecting ballot petitions himself. And other than two recent appearances with Betsy Gotbaum, the current public advocate, and other candidates for the office to criticize Mr. Bloomberg’s cuts to the advocate’s budget, he has been keeping an unusually muted profile.
“Why would I have a press conference and have no one come?” Mr. Green said on a recent morning as he collected signatures outside a Chelsea subway stop. “Who wants to come listen to the Mark Green economic development plan?”
The conventional wisdom holds that the Sept. 15 primary remains Mr. Green’s to lose because he is better known than any of the other Democratic candidates: Norman Siegel, the civil liberties lawyer, and two City Council members: Bill de Blasio of Brooklyn and Eric N. Gioia of Queens. The Republican candidate is Alex T. Zablocki, a political aide from Staten Island.
But political analysts say Mr. Green may not clear the 40 percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff. And if he fails to do so, whoever ends up as his rival may have more momentum — especially if it is Mr. de Blasio, who commands strong labor support.
“Mark Green has run so many times and he has tapped the same donors so many times that there may be some Green fatigue,” said Douglas Muzzio, a professor of political science at Baruch College. “Maybe that’s why he’s running such an under-the-radar campaign.”
Following his loss to Mr. Cuomo — and after stating unequivocally in 2006, “I will not seek elective office again” — Mr. Green is back on the hunt for votes, driven in large part, he says, by his anger over Mr. Bloomberg’s overturning of term limits.
Since announcing his candidacy in March, Mr. Green has collected more than $400,000, of which $110,000 in contributions of up to $175 each qualify for a $6-to-$1 match of public funds. He said that he was confident he would reach the $125,000 threshold in contributions qualifying for matching funds by Aug. 11, in time for the stretch run, according his campaign manager, Anne Strahle.
By contrast, Mr. Gioia has raised $2 million and Mr. de Blasio, who announced his bid last fall, $1.1 million. (Mr. Gioia, some say jokingly, has been running for advocate since winning his second Council term in 2005.)
“I have to do in six months what others have been doing for years,” Mr. Green said. “I think it’s an advantage for me in that I’ve been a consumer advocate and public advocate in front of voters for a long time. I am happy where I am. I’m a hopeless optimist.”
Part of Mr. Green’s rationale for relying on name recognition among likely primary voters, rather than a visible campaign, could be what even former aides say is his polarizing personality. Though he is still the same liberal lion, committed to economic justice and civil rights, many political insiders believe him to be arrogant and solipsistic, qualities not likely to endear him to voters.
When asked recently after a City Hall news conference what his schedule would be like over the next few days, Mr. Green scrolled through his iPhone and said: “Petitioning. Fund-raising. Petitioning. Fund-raising. No events.”
Mr. Green said that he could not stay silent when he heard about the Bloomberg administration’s 40 percent budget cut for the public advocate’s office. But that prompted some people to wonder whether Mr. Green and the other candidates for advocate were motivated chiefly by self-interest.
Indeed, with the exception of Mr. Siegel, who has no other publicly stated political ambitions, whoever wins would be well positioned to run for mayor in 2013, Professor Muzzio said.
Mr. Green scoffs at such talk. He says that the city desperately needs an independent — and in his case, seasoned — public advocate to stand up to Mr. Bloomberg, and the City Council speaker, Christine C. Quinn. Under the City Charter, the public advocate, whose role is to be an ombudsman for complaints about city government, is next in line to succeed the mayor.
“Some people say, ‘You’re running again?’ ” Mr. Green said. “I say, ‘I don’t run to run, but to serve.’ I also never hear, ‘Let the new guy do it.’ I always hear, ‘You’re the experienced guy who helped me before.’ ”
But first Mr. Green needs to collect the signatures of 7,500 registered voters. So he multitasks. At the start of the gay pride parade last month, he gathered his team of about a dozen college volunteers in a huddle, and, acting like a quarterback, told them to go wide to the sidewalk barricades, armed with their petition clipboards.
“It’s a great day for gay pride and rights, but we can’t help it — we’ve got to petition,” Mr. Green said, adding that he enjoyed interacting with voters.
At the Fairway market, Mr. Green ran into old friends, like Lloyd Constantine, a close associate of former Gov. Eliot Spitzer. Mr. Constantine promised to send a campaign contribution that weekend. Mr. Spitzer had already given $2,000.
A few said they wished Mr. Green were running for mayor. Others asked, perhaps cynically, “What are you running for now?” One even confused him — and this was a first, Mr. Green noted — with Scott M. Stringer, the Manhattan borough president, who, with his glasses, gravelly voice and shorter, stockier frame, would be difficult to mistake for a long-lost twin of Mr. Green’s.
“It humbles the candidate,” said Michael Gaspard, Mr. Green’s political director. “You’ve got to go out, meet voters, get reaction. It’s a good process.”
The reaction of Jessica Nooney, who runs a day care center on the Upper West Side, may have been emblematic. She blurted out, with a big smile, “Are you the real Mark Green?”
He nodded. She said: “It’s the real Mark Green! We need you!”
After she left, and passed the next street corner, where a New York University student was collecting signatures for Leslie Crocker Snyder’s bid for Manhattan district attorney, Ms. Nooney acknowledged feeling torn.
“He’s a household name, and I hope he makes it,” she said. “But it’s very sad. It’s like he can’t get another job. When someone has lost so many times, it’s kind of hard to come back.”
My daughter Sari was told to move from her 10 inch spot
by Betsy Combier
My oldest daughter - when we found her again - got a job handing out "Metro" newspapers while standing at the 86th street Lexington Avenue subway stop, in 2006 (northwest corner).
One morning she called me and told me that a man by the name of "Mark Green for Attorney General" had come up to her and told her that the very spot that she was standing, all ten inches, was HIS spot, and she had to move. She asked me what she should do.
I told her that I knew someone who worked on Mr. Green's campaign, Hank Sheinkopf, and I would call him to find out why Mark Green couldnt take another spot on the sidewalk at 86th Street and Lex. But, I said, "why not give him the spot that he wanted, just for today?" She did.
Here is an email that Hank sent out about his new position working for Mark Green:
From: Mark Green [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org]
Sent: Tuesday, January 24, 2006 11:00 AM
Subject: Hank Sheinkopf: Why I'm Working for Mark Green for AG
I've this week joined the Mark Green for Attorney General Campaign as chief political strategist and would like to explain why.
In the past I've worked for some terrific candidates and public officials -- President Bill Clinton, Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, Comptroller Carl McCall, Comptroller Bill Thompson, Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum. I think I understand public talent, public commitment and public integrity. Mark has all three.
Especially because we're discussing a successor to Eliot Spitzer, who set the bar high for the next attorney general, no standard politician or lawyer will do as our party's nominee. NYS needs someone special to succeed someone special. And David Boies said it best: "This is the job that Mark was born to do."
On the merits, Mark is head and shoulders better qualified than Andrew Cuomo. Mark has already excelled at two very similar offices in New York -- he was the consumer fraud prosecutor running the 300 person NYC Department of Consumer Affairs and was the elected Public Advocate for NYC. No one else comes close to this 11 year experience and record in New York State for the office of Attorney General -- not to mention that the 20 books he's written or edited shows a person of great substance who can think for himself.
If "the best rationale wins," as Mario Cuomo always said, then on the merits Mark's a winner.
But what about the politics of this race?
Of all the candidates considering a run, only Mark has won six elections -- and in large jurisdictions, not just an assembly district. He's won two general elections NYC-wide for Public Advocate, each time getting more votes than Rudy Giuliani. And he's won four Democratic primaries, including for Mayor against such formidable opponents as Hevesi, Vallone and Ferrer.
Andrew Cuomo does have a modest head start in polls, almost entirely because of his last name recognition upstate...but then he also had that same head start in 2002 before quitting once voters began paying attention. Last week's Quinnipiac Poll, showing both Mark and Andy defeating Jeanine Pirro, was interesting in this context. Among Democrats statewide, which is our "primary" concern, Mark had a 33% favorable vs. a 9% unfavorable, for a 24 percentage point net favorable -- while Andy had a 31% vs. 14% unfavorable, for a 17 percentage point net favorable. So where people know both, Mark's measurably more appealing.
And by the September 12 primary, when we do our jobs, every primary Democratic voter will know about Mark's record helping consumers, workers and shareholders over his lifetime as a leading People's Lawyer.
I'm honored to be a part of The Green Team. If you agree that Mark is the best Democrat to continue the Abrams-Spitzer tradition of this great office, I look forward to working with each of you who would like to help.
My daughter Sari gave up the ten inches right outside of the subway stop on 86th street and Lexington avenue, and continued to hand out Metro newspapers several feet away, still on the corner of 86th street and Lexington Avenue.
I called Hank up and told him what Mark had said, and the next day I received a call from Mark's campaign manager, Anne Strahle, who apologized profusely. She suggested that Mark would like to speak with Sari, so I told her when Sari would be available. Mark Green called her and told her how sorry he was that she was upset at giving up her spot on 86th and Lexington, but what an excellent public citizen she was, and how he hoped that she would consider voting him in as Public Advocate.
Sari told me that she thought there was no chance for Mark Green.
Mr. Green re-appeared at 86th street and Lexington avenue in Manhattan while Sari handed out Metro on the northwest corner. Mr. Green displaced the teens handing out the newspaper on the South west corner. They were very angry.