Mayor Giuliani fired the opening salvo of the 1997 mayoral battle yesterday, slamming potential challengers as inexperienced, extremist or “machine politicians.”
While insisting he hasn’t decided to seek a second term, the Republican mayor for the first time dropped his strategic refusal to rate the chances of possible opponents.
Giuliani also touted his own political strengths, saying any reelection campaign would focus on double-digit decreases in city crime rates during his tenure.
“When I say it’s the capital of the world, which I began saying in my inaugural speech, people now accept it,” the mayor said in an interview set to air tomorrow on WCBS-TV’s “Sunday Edition.”
Giuliani criticized six possible Democratic challengers who were listed in a recent Quinnipiac College poll. Several responded with sharp return attacks. Among his exchanges:
He tabbed Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger as the Democratic front-runner, and said: “Democratic primaries are won by the most extreme candidate and, ideologically, she is the most extreme of that group.”
Messinger spokesman Leland Jones voiced surprise at the sharpness of the attack just 72 hours after Election Day, saying, “It is a little surprising that the campaign hasn’t even started, and the mayor has already decided to go negative.”
Giuliani accused City Controller Alan Hevesi of politicizing his office and labeled the Queens Democrat “very much an old-fashioned machine partisan politician.”
Hevesi shrugged off the Giuliani attack. “He is simply trying to start another personal fight,” Hevesi said.
Giuliani labeled Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer as “very much the product of Bronx machine politics.” The mayor noted that Ferrer succeeded Stanley Simon, who went to prison for his conviction in a racketeering case prosecuted by Giuliani.
Ferrer did not respond to a request for comment.
Giuliani said former Police Commissioner William Bratton would be a weak mayoral candidate because of “inexperience in many, many other areas of government.” Bratton could not be reached for comment.
The mayor said two other candidates — City Councilman Sal Albanese (D-Brooklyn) and the Rev. Al Sharpton — wouldn’t stand a chance in a Democratic primary, much less against him.
Sharpton dismissed the attack and Albanese argued he was more qualified to be mayor than Giuliani.
Original Story Date: 11/09/96