- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 25, 2001

NEW YORK Voters in today's mayoral primary will narrow the field of candidates to succeed Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, the man who in the past two weeks has become the symbol of a city fighting back against terrorism.

None of the four Democrats and two Republicans seeking the mayor's job ever seemed likely to be such a celebrity as Mr. Giuliani, the crime-busting former prosecutor who once mocked his tough-guy image by appearing in drag on "Saturday Night Live."

But after terrorists piloting hijacked jets destroyed the World Trade Center Sept. 11, Mr. Giuliani's marshalling of emergency-response and rescue efforts has so enhanced his stature that his would-be successors are dwarfed in comparison.

There is even talk that Mr. Giuliani now an international hero dubbed "America's Mayor" might not be leaving office after all.

New York papers, citing advisers to the mayor, reported that Mr. Giuliani might either request a six-month extension of his term, which ends Dec. 31, or challenge the term-limits law that prevents him from serving a third term, and then run in the November general election.

The first option would require emergency legislation by the state Legislature, while repealing term limits would require the City Council and city voters to amend the city charter.

At a news conference yesterday, the Republican mayor refused to be pinned down on reports that he was planning to remain in City Hall.

"I have not had time to think about it, and until I have time to think about it, I really can't talk about it," he said. "My concentration has been on [the rescue effort], not on that. As soon as I have time, I'll think about it and talk to the people I trust the most and get their advice and then I'll make a statement."

Today's election actually began on Sept. 11, but it was aborted by the kamikaze attacks on the twin towers of the World Trade Center that killed more than 6,000. Since then, Mr. Giuliani has led the city through the gravest crisis in its history.

Before Sept. 11, many credited the mayor with reviving the city's economy and reducing crime. But his detractors especially Democrats who want his job portrayed Mr. Giuliani as a petty bully who refused to effect reforms in the New York City Police Department.

Since the terror attacks, Mr. Giuliani, 57, has gone from lame duck to swan, emerging as a model of strong leadership that the six major candidates will be expected to emulate. No one has dared criticize either the mayor or the NYPD in the aftermath of the devastation that wiped out a major city landmark.

Mr. Giuliani last year dropped a Senate campaign against Hillary Rodham Clinton after revealing he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Treatment for the disease was apparently successful, and Mr. Giuliani's political future has been the subject of speculation, with some suggesting him for various positions in the Bush administration, including head of the CIA.

Efforts to extend Mr. Giuliani's mayoral term have sprung up since Sept. 11. At least one of the mayor's aides was reported to be phoning City Council members to encourage them to repeal the term-limits law and cancel the election.

Gov. George E. Pataki decided not to ask the Legislature to postpone the election again, but the governor said Friday, "If I were a resident of New York City, I'd write [Mr. Giuliani] in."

Mr. Giuliani initially said that disrupting the electoral process would mean a victory for the terrorists. More recently, when asked if he still wants to be mayor, he has not said no.

Mr. Giuliani's performance since Sept. 11 has eclipsed the major Democratic and Republican hopefuls, with the exception of City Council Speaker Peter F. Vallone. Mr. Vallone, a Democrat, stood by Mr. Giuliani's side while the media followed them during tours of the World Trade Center wreckage.

Instead of attacking the mayor or the NYPD, candidates are now stressing their executive experience and backing the police. Both City Comptroller Alan Hevesi, a Democrat, and Republican candidate Michael R. Bloomberg have said they would keep either Mr. Giuliani or his top aides in their own administrations.

Mr. Bloomberg, a media tycoon, is expected to win handily over his Republican opponent, former Giuliani adviser Herman Badillo. Mr. Bloomberg emphasizes that he supervises some 8,000 employees.

Democratic Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer backed by the Rev. Al Sharpton has often denounced the NYPD for incidents of brutality. Public Advocate Mark Green, a Democrat, now says safety and security are top priorities.

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