- The Washington Times - Friday, November 2, 2001

NEW YORK The tourists at Rockefeller Center don't recognize Terrance M. Gray not that they should. But to the Conservative Party candidate for mayor, it's just one more embarrassing slight in his election effort.
As Mr. Gray sauntered by the famous tourist intersection recently, just after finishing his only television interview of the campaign, a couple of out-of-town visitors requested that he take their picture for the folks back home no mention of giving him their vote. He politely complied.
"It was the closest thing we've had to interest," said the candidate. "It's a delicious irony, isn't it? They'll go home and never know."
What they don't know is what most of New York doesn't know the fact that Mr. Gray, 54, is running to succeed Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani.
Mr. Gray, a resident of Queens, may go down in urban history as the city's most invisible politician. A negligence lawyer and a former assistant district attorney who has lost three judgeship races in his borough, he has been out of the media loop from the start. Not one newspaper editorial board has invited him in, and even conservative commentators largely have ignored him.
And for those few voters who do know of Mr. Gray, it is primarily for two reasons: his resemblance to Theodore Roosevelt, and the near political-death experience he had when it looked as though the party would jettison him and run Mr. Giuliani instead.
Relations between the Conservative Party chairman, Mike Long, and City Hall have never been smooth especially when it came down to their differing positions on abortion. So it was a jolt to the political establishment when Mr. Long and Mr. Gray announced late last month that Mr. Gray would accommodate the mayor by standing aside and letting him have the Conservative Party's ballot line to seek another term.
"It was a moment of emotion," said Mr. Long. "I was so angry at the attack on the World Trade Center and I have two sons who are firemen that I thought if Gray was willing, it was the right thing to do. It was a time of war."
Mr. Giuliani's efforts to extend his tenure by persuading the state legislature to override term limits failed, and so Mr. Gray remained the party's candidate. "I told Mike it was the right thing to do," said Mr. Gray.
Mr. Gray may be regarded as a sacrificial lamb; nevertheless, he has insisted from the start that he entered the race because the other candidates were "a bunch of liberal Democrats." The nomination had been offered to, among others, National Review Editor Rich Lowry, who turned it down.
There are an estimated 28,000 registered Conservative voters in the city. In 1993, the last year that the party ran a candidate in the mayor's race, 20,000 New Yorkers cast their votes for investment banker George Marlin, who lost to Mr. Giuliani. The party's platform calls for no federal funding of stem-cell research, an end to flag desecration, lower taxes and a resumption of military exercises on the Puerto Rican island of Vieques.
Mr. Gray is calling for educational reform through vouchers, a reduction of red tape for land developers and support for the New York City Police Department (NYPD). The sole TV commercial of his campaign is an attack on civil-rights agitator the Rev. Al Sharpton, a severe critic of the NYPD. The central idea of the 30-second ad is that a vote for either the Democratic candidate, Mark Green, or the Republican contender, Michael R. Bloomberg, is a vote for the controversial preacher.
"It's time for Al Sharpton to shut up and sit down," Mr. Gray says bluntly, looking directly into the camera. Both Mr. Green and Mr. Bloomberg have actively sought Mr. Sharpton's endorsement.
Mr. Gray eschews the overwhelming reality that he cannot win. "You know what they say when they sell you a lottery ticket: 'Be in it to win it.' Even if the odds are against you, you enter the contest."


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