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New York Post


NYC Primary Votes Really Matter

September 10, 2013

By Nicole Gelinas

Are you so depressed about the mayoral race you’re thinking about staying away from the polls? Think again. Things are bad. But they could — and can — be worse. Whether you’re a Democratic or Republican, your vote matters — and your vote tomorrow matters more than your vote Nov. 5.

New Yorkers may think that their vote doesn’t matter.

After all, the Quinnipiac poll shows Public Advocate Bill de Blasio beating his closest competitor two-to-one, and at 43 percent — above the 40 percent he needs to avoid a runoff election with the next top vote-getter. And observers see this lead as solid.

Top rivals Christine Quinn and Bill Thompson aren’t doing anything wrong, campaign-wise — so can’t fix the problem. Thompson already ran for mayor and lost — and served as city comptroller, too. Quinn’s been City Council speaker for eight years.

John Lindsay’s old motto when voters elected him nearly half a century ago — “He is fresh and everyone else is tired” — fits de Blasio.

Then, too, you may think there’s no real policy difference among the Democratic candidates. (That is, they’re uniformly awful.)

But even if you’re a liberal, the thought of a de Blasio landslide should make you nervous. The candidate said proudly last week that his tax hike on the rich was the “centerpiece” of his campaign. So the entire reason he’s running is to increase city tax revenues by 1 percent.

With solid economic growth, de Blasio could do that easily without hiking taxes. His tax hike isn’t a fiscally responsible way of paying for your new spending. It’s suicidal liberalism for the sake of liberalism.

New York needs another three weeks’ worth of a more pragmatic Democrat — either Thompson or Quinn would do fine — pointing out that this is insane.

Democrats who really don’t want to be forced to vote for a Republican in two months’ time should think about this now, not then.

That said, Republican votes may matter Tuesday more than Democratic ones.

Political consultants and “business community” observers terrified of a de Blasio mayor are complacent. They think former MTA chief and Giuliani sidekick Joe Lhota is a shoo-in.

He’s got 48 percent of the vote, says Quinnipiac, way more than he needs to avoid a runoff.

Plus, Lhota is the guy with experience running a massive transit system, the city’s budget and much of the city’s day-to-day operations. Over him, who on earth would vote for John Catsimatidis — the laughingstock frumpy, slightly nutty-sounding supermarket billionaire whose main idea is a new World’s Fair?

Don’t be so sure. “We ain’t never been here before,” says veteran pollster John Zogby, who’s not polling for any candidate in this race. “Catsimatidis is wild, and he’s a wild card.”

Why? New York hasn’t had a real contested Republican mayoral primary since 2001, when Herman Badillo ran against Bloomberg.

Badillo, the underdog, lost (obviously), solidifying the conventional wisdom that underdogs lose this race. But we’ve never had a race where the underdog — Catsimatidis — was the one spending all the money.

“Does the GOP primary matter? Of course it does,” notes Zogby. That’s partly because the general election may be “a hell of a lot more competitive than it may look.” Who voters pick now — on both sides — matters.

Catsimatidis has blitzed airwaves and mailboxes for weeks. He’s hitting Lhota where it hurts.

Mostly he’s attacking Lhota for raising bridge tolls while he was at the MTA. As a policy matter, this charge is absurd: Catsimatidis won’t say how he would’ve avoided a toll hike.

But GOP voters are outer-boroughites who care fiercely about taxes — and they drive.

What about the poll? Quinnipiac is a fine outfit. But the number of Republicans it polled is barely in the hundreds. Pollsters have no idea who or how many will vote, or why.

With only 45,000 city Republicans having voted in the last contested state-wide primary, all the answers matter.

Do the city’s small, mysterious band of Republicans like Rudy Giuliani (who’s endorsed Lhota) more than they hate higher tolls?

If you’d like to spend the fall debating reasonable NYPD reforms and fair solutions to the city’s budget crisis rather than discussing whether we should abolish stop, question and frisk or run over kitty-cats, your chance to make a difference is now — not two months down the line.

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