When the history of New York City’s 2009 election is written, it may be said the campaign really began on October 23, 2008.
That’s the day the City Council voted to extend the city’s term limits, thereby allowing Mayor Michael Bloomberg to run for a third term. In two referendums, the people of New York had voted to limit citywide candidates to two terms. But Bloomberg and his supporters persuaded the Council to overturn that law.
The Democratic candidate against Bloomberg, City Comptroller Thompson, has based much of his campaign on that issue, charging that Bloomberg has betrayed his own belief by running for a third term. The mayor has argued that he stands for progress, that he wants to continue fulfilling his agenda to improve New York.
On Monday, a crisp, fall day, the last of the campaign, the candidates made their final pitches to the people. The mayor visited small businesses in Manhattan, the Bronx, and Queens , greeted commuters at a subway station in Forest Hills and watched the World Series at a pub in Brooklyn. Thompson was on a similar journey, meeting with representatives of the arts at Riverside Church in Manhattan, speaking at a senior center in Chinatown, riding in a caravan in Brooklyn in the early evening., going to a rally in upper Manhattan in the evening.
The single issue that overshadows this election, and many others throughout the nation, is jobs. With unemployment running at about 10 percent and no sign of it subsiding, this issue is uppermost in the minds of many voters. Bloomberg has argued that his skill as a businessman will bring New York through the fiscal troubles ahead -- and he pledges a city jobs program to put unemployed people to work. Thompson promises to make New York a center of small business growth. He pledges to devote resources to training people in job skills.
The mayor points with pride at the drop in crime rate, which happened on his watch. He says that, by centralizing the educational system under City Hall, he has slashed bureaucracy and improved test scores for children in math and reading. Thompson, who served as president of the old Board of Education, promises action to end teaching to the test and, instead, emphasizing teaching that truly educates youngsters. He promises higher salaries to attract better qualified people to New York’s Police Department. And he says he’ll work for more affordable housing units.
Both candidates have basically liberal agendas. As the voters go to the polls, their decision may well be based on how they answer the question: whom do you trust?
And, with many experts predicting that the turnout will be very low, the outcome of this election may depend on who has the better organization to get out the vote.