- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 6, 2004


New York demands toughness, and the city’s Republican mayor is playing hardball — with the Republican Party members he will host later this summer at their nominating convention.

Michael R. Bloomberg, who faces re-election next year in this solidly Democratic city, has tangled with Republicans over the basics of the convention such as who has the final word on street closings during the four-day event, and a long-term issue: whether Republicans in Congress are denying the city millions of dollars in homeland security funds.

Getting into a fight with the mayor weeks before the convention isn’t smart politics. Just ask the Democrats who are at odds with Boston Mayor Thomas Menino over his handling of contract negotiations with the city’s police union. Democrats fear demonstrations will disrupt the convention July 26-29.

The Republican rift comes as New York prepares for the Republican convention beginning Aug. 30 at Madison Square Garden, about three miles from ground zero where terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center.

The spat involves a mayor whose party affiliation was widely seen as a choice of convenience rather than conviction. Mr. Bloomberg switched his Democratic registration to the Republican Party just months before he announced his candidacy, thus avoiding a crowded Democratic race and giving him a better shot at becoming mayor.

His recent battles with the party reflect Mr. Bloomberg’s desire to win re-election in 2005, which may well be more important to him than this year’s presidential election.

Steve Cohen, a professor at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, said Mr. Bloomberg has borrowed a strategy from his predecessor, Rudolph W. Giuliani, a Republican who often seemed willing to spar with anyone to appear the city’s champion.

“The mayor sees this going into his re-election as a very potent political issue, and he’s been trying to demonstrate Giuliani-like toughness,” Mr. Cohen said. “He’s been playing ball with these people for a couple of years now, and in the end he got stabbed in the back.”

Mr. Bloomberg’s major fight with the Republican Party came after the Republican-led House rejected a bill that would have shifted about $450 million in counterterrorism funds from rural areas to cities. In the days after the House vote, Mr. Bloomberg withdrew an invitation to Rep. Bob Ney, Ohio Republican, for a party meeting at his home and criticized other, unidentified, lawmakers for taking away “monies that we need to protect us against terrorists.”

Mr. Ney was one of 147 Republicans who voted against the measure. But the vote fell largely on regional, not party, lines, with 89 Democrats and an independent also opposed.

Even the nuts-and-bolts planning of the convention has put Mr. Bloomberg at odds with the Republican Party.

After a convention official announced in May that streets around Madison Square Garden would be closed as early as three days before the convention, Mr. Bloomberg said the official spoke “without knowledge” and insisted the city police department would make any decisions on street closings.

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