- The Washington Times - Saturday, November 5, 2005

NEW YORK (AP) — The thought of voting for a Republican makes some true-blue New York Democrats wince. But when the Republican is Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, they can make themselves pull the Republican lever.

The willingness of Democrats to put aside party loyalty for Mr. Bloomberg is a big reason the billionaire former chief executive appears to be coasting toward a huge re-election victory Tuesday in this overwhelmingly left-leaning city.

Mr. Bloomberg is drawing an extraordinary majority of Democrats away from his opponent, Fernando Ferrer. Not even Republican Rudolph W. Giuliani, who enjoyed considerable Democratic support, did this well with the opposite party.

Many Democrats say they want Mr. Bloomberg to stay in office because he is a problem-solver who makes them feel safe — and he used to be a Democrat, too.

“What outweighs the flinching is what he’s done for New York,” said Patty Newberger, a film executive who has never cast a vote for a Republican. But she was persuaded by Mr. Bloomberg’s first-term accomplishments — such as lower crime and better school test scores. “When you consider that, it hurts less.”

Democrats outnumber Republicans 5-to-1 here and helped Sen. John Kerry beat President Bush 74 percent to 24 percent in last year’s election. Only three members on the 51-seat City Council are Republican.

So why have Republicans controlled City Hall for 12 years — eight with Mr. Giuliani plus Mr. Bloomberg’s first four?

Veteran Democratic strategist Hank Sheinkopf said that in a pattern that dates back decades, New York’s voters often turn to Republicans to solve problems.

Fiorello LaGuardia ran as a reformer in 1933 to clean up corruption, and Mr. Giuliani, a tough prosecutor, was elected in 1993 to crack down on crime. Mr. Bloomberg, a political neophyte, won his first term in 2001 as fires still raged in the World Trade Center rubble and New Yorkers were still jittery about terrorist attacks.

“Republican mayors are a response to a crisis,” Mr. Sheinkopf said. “And what you find also is that Republican mayors tend to get re-elected because their management style reminds people of the original crisis they were elected to resolve.”

Still, some die-hard Democrats say they may wince as they step into the booth and pull the lever for a Republican candidate.

“It may be very difficult for me initially when I get in there,” acknowledged Karen Donaldson Rivera, a Democrat from Brooklyn.

The mayor himself was a Democrat until he switched parties in 2001 to avoid a crowded primary. He supports abortion rights and same-sex “marriage,” and has donated to both Democrats and Republicans.

“The public is very smart and they look at the individual candidates more and more, I think, in this country and certainly in this city than they do party labels,” Mr. Bloomberg said last week.

Certainly, many Democrats remain devoted to their party’s nominee, who rose from a poor Bronx neighborhood to become a city councilman and borough president.

Marvin Frasier, a Ferrer supporter from Harlem, said he is backing the candidate he thinks understands ordinary New Yorkers.

“What does Bloomberg know about the struggle? What does he really care about me?” Mr. Frasier asked.

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