By Adam Kramer
As voters in Queens went to the polls Tuesday, questions over the future of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani loomed larger in many cases than the immediate fate of the six mayoral candidates in the Democratic and Republican primary.
Giuliani, who has earned praise around the city and the nation for his handling of the city’s response to the destruction of the World Trade Center, urged voters not to write in his name as a candidate the day before Tuesday’s election.
But he did not rule out seeking a third term even though he is scheduled to leave office Dec. 31 because of term limits.
A groundswell of support for Giuliani has built in Queens and the other boroughs to retain him as mayor with some calling for a write-in campaign in the Nov. 6 election or legal action by the City Council and the state Legislature to revise the term limit law, which does not seem likely.
Analysts said it would be nearly impossible for Giuliani to keep the mayoralty because he is not on the ballot and does not have a large campaign war chest. Even if he were able to overcome those roadblocks, he would be prevented from retaining the office because of the term limit law.
Removing term limits for all city elective offices would cause an uproar from all candidates after they have spent time and millions of dollars on their campaigns
Outside a polling place in Little Neck, Jeanne McLernon said she was one of the many who would prefer if the mayor kept his job, especially because of the crisis the city faces in the aftermath of the Twin Tower attack.
“I think he is great,” said Flushing resident Gilda Schmidt outside of the polls at the Rosenthal Senior Center. “I think he should run again. He should be mayor again.”
But Elizabeth Maher of Kew Gardens did not agree. She said she did not want the mayor to seek another term. His time in City Hall is over and he has to follow the term limits law, she said, while the candidates in the running for the keys to Gracie Mansion were very capable.
“His time has come to an end,” said D.N. Singh of Richmond Hill. “That’s the democracy of this nation. He has served us well, but another man should get a chance now.”
The day before the rescheduled Sept. 25 primary, Giuliani said it would be senseless for voters to write in his name on the ballot. The original primary on Sept. 11 was canceled after the attack on the Twin Towers.
“I have not had time to think about it, and until I have had time to think about it, I really can’t talk about it,” Giuliani told a Monday news conference. “My concentration has been on these things not on that. As soon as I have time, I will think about it and talk to the people I trust the most, then I will make a statement.”
Queens Borough President Claire Shulman originally said it might be advantageous to keep Giuliani around during the critical period facing the city because he provides a sense of security to the people of New York City.
But after the mayor’s Monday announcement that he had not decided whether or not to pursue another term, Dan Andrews, Shulman’s spokesman, said the borough president would wait for Giuliani’s decision before commenting.
“It is very difficult to organize a write-in vote campaign on a large scale under normal circumstances, but under these circumstances it is nearly impossible,” said Evan Stavisky, a political consultant who does not represent a mayoral candidate.
Three Democratic candidates for mayor — Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer, Public Advocate Mark Green and Comptroller Alan Hevesi remained in the background during the two weeks after the original primary on Sept. 11. But City Council Speaker Peter Vallone (D-Astoria) was active in the city’s recovery efforts and a constant figure behind the mayor at Giuliani’s news conferences.
The two GOP candidates — former U.S. Rep. Herman Badillo and media mogul Michael Bloomberg — made no noise since the attack on the Twin Towers.
Stavisky said to extend the mayor’s term would be unprecedented and he did not think it would attract widespread support. In addition, Stavisky said, it would pose constitutional issues on both the state and national levels.
Even if Giuliani after speaking with his inner circle decided to push for more time, he would not appear on any of the election lines, determined months ago by the parties and the petitioning process.
A political insider said one way the mayor could get an election line — allowing him to run in the Nov. 6 election — would be for a political party to put up its intended mayoral candidate for a judgeship instead. Then Giuliani’s name could be substituted on the ballot in that party’s slot for mayor.
“Speaker Silver said the issue of extending the mayor’s term should not come to Albany,” said Bryan Franke, a spokesman for state Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D-Manhattan). “It was decided by the voters and the Council of New York City and should be overturned by the voters and the council.”
State Assemblyman John Faso, a Republican from Columbia County, said he would introduce legislation to allow voters to override the term limit law by writing in the mayor’s name in the Nov. 6 general election.
“It is my hope that this bill can be passed before the November election to give the backers of the mayor the opportunity to mount an effective campaign if they so choose,” he said.
Reach reporter Adam Kramer by e-mail at Timesledgr@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 157.