A Delegate Political Situation

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The delegate list for New York’s March 2 Democratic presidential primary is a lesson in the webs of influence permeating the boroughs. For months, presidential hopefuls have been vying for support from New York party leaders.

Councilmember Bill de Blasio and the rest of North Carolina Senator John Edwards’ New York campaign team seem to have mastered the game: They have mobilized a full slate of delegates in each of the city’s 12 congressional districts.

Vermont Governor Howard Dean did the same, but more of Dean’s delegates live just outside of New York City, in suburbs like Great Neck and Yonkers, making Edwards the winner for the most delegates inside the five boroughs. “What often happens is that observers pay attention to the major endorsements,” says de Blasio, who reckons that the only way to beat George W. Bush is to match the president against a Southerner. “They forget that there are people who have power to move things on the ground”–efforts like fundraising and getting out the vote.

While the Edwards team has the ballot blanketed, Dean–with some heavy boosting from City Council Speaker Gifford Miller–has a slew of boldface names on his slate, a factor likely to influence voters. Councilmembers Eva Moskowitz, Bill Perkins, Christine Quinn and Philip Reed have all lined up for Dean in Manhattan, and are joined by five other council members from Brooklyn, eight from Queens, Joel Rivera from the Bronx and Michael McMahon from Staten Island.

Delegates supporting Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman seem to be aware that State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver endorses Lieberman, and they include Assemblymembers Vito Lopez and Mark Weprin. (Weprin’s brother David, who chairs the City Council’s Finance Committee, signed up as a Dean delegate.)

While Rev. Al Sharpton doesn’t have a full slate of delegates in every district, he did enlist plenty of prominent Bronx officeholders. Congressman José Serrano is a Sharpton delegate, as are Councilmembers Maria Baez and Helen Foster. In Brooklyn, Congressman Ed Towns and his assemblymember son Darryl Towns are also on Sharpton’s team.

In Queens, family ties also abound. Congressman Gary Ackerman has refused to endorse any candidate, but his wife, Rita, is a delegate for Gen. Wesley Clark. Congressman Gregory Meeks and his wife, Simone-Marie, are delegates for Massachusetts Senator John Kerry. But with only 11 percent of city delegates so far, Kerry might not be able to send more than a handful to the convention in his own hometown. Kerry might consider endorsing the Yankees.