Wounded city picks candidates to succeed Giuliani

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The Independent US

New Yorkers moved a step closer to choosing a new mayor for their wounded city after polling on Tuesday singled out two Democrat candidates to face one another in a run-off in two weeks and one Republican – the financial news magnate Michael Bloomberg – to compete in the general election in November.

The normal hoopla of city politics was totally absent when the results from Tuesday's primaries flowed in. Much more unsettling still for all the successful candidates, however, was the prospect that the incumbent Mayor, Rudolph Giuliani, may seek to circumvent term-limit laws to stay in office.

Exit polling suggested, indeed, that was he to find a way to duck those laws and then fight in the election on 6 November, Mr Giuliani, a Republican, would coast to victory and be elected to serve a third four-year term. Even two out of every five Democrats said they would vote for him if given the chance.

Otherwise, the race for the Democrat nomination is tight. Fernando Ferrer received 36 per cent of the vote, just 4 points below what he need to avoid a run-off against his nearest rival, the city's public advocate, Mark Green, who won 31 per cent.

If victorious, Mr Ferrer, who is from Puerto Rico, would be the first Hispanic Mayor of New York.

Exit polls suggested, however, that Mr Green is the more likely to assemble the most votes in the run-off. He has much greater support from New York's white population. Mr Ferrer, who is strongly backed by the Rev Al Sharpton, draws most of his votes from the Hispanic and black communities.

Mr Giuliani had been a lame duck politically until the terror attack on the World Trade Centre on 11 September. The city has overflowed with praise for him in the days since the disaster, when he has shown what some have described as "Churchillian" leadership and compassion.

While Mr Giuliani has equivocated in public about whether he should seek to have the term-limit laws repealed so he can stay on, many of his officials have been working hard behind the scenes to make his remaining in office an option.

Mr Bloomberg, who has touted his record of founding and running a huge corporation, easily beat his only Republican rival, Herman Badillo. "My experience has prepared me for these rough and difficult times ahead," he told supporters.

Voters refused to let terrorism change their views; many continued to rate education above terrorism as their top concern,according to an exit poll by Edison Media Research.

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