Mayoral Candidate Opposes Giuliani’s Bid to Extend Term

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Partisan politics overtook public grief Thursday as one of this city’s mayoral candidates threatened to derail Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani’s bid to sidestep term limits and stay in office several months longer to direct the World Trade Center recovery efforts.

After meeting with Giuliani, one Republican and one Democratic primary winner agreed to support measures to delay their inaugurations. Both said an extended transition from one administration to the next would help the city deal with problems ranging from financial aid and physical reconstruction to heightened security measures and psychological healing.

But the third candidate, Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer, tripped up the “keep Rudy” movement late Thursday by rejecting the mayor’s overtures. During the primary campaign, Ferrer--who is seeking to become New York’s first Latino mayor--had been the most outspoken critic of Giuliani’s policies.


“I met with the mayor last evening, but after listening to his proposal and giving it careful and thoughtful consideration, I have decided that I cannot support it,” said Ferrer, who will be in a Democratic primary runoff Oct. 11.

Ferrer said that although the politics of the moment might dictate otherwise, he was concerned about the precedent that Giuliani’s plan would set. “For centuries, we have made orderly, constitutional transitions of government--even in times of crisis,” Ferrer said in a statement. “We must not disrupt that process now.”

Ferrer said he would be willing to appoint Giuliani as head of a new recovery authority that would oversee the efforts of government officials, business interests and labor to rebuild lower Manhattan. But his refusal, which surprised many observers, seems guaranteed to inflame a debate over how much the city needs Giuliani to stay on the job after his second term ends Dec. 31.

Neither Giuliani nor his aides could be immediately reached for comment on Ferrer’s rejection, but it seemed certain to crack the united front of city officials and politicians that took shape after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. More important, it could fuel the mayor’s reported efforts to get the term limits law suspended and seek reelection for a third term.

Although many political experts believe the hugely popular mayor could win a third term, he would need permission from either the state Legislature or City Council in order to run--and high-ranking Democratic leaders in both bodies have voiced doubts about whether that will happen.

In recent days, the mayor has stepped up efforts to press his case for a job extension, appearing on “60 Minutes II” and on Oprah Winfrey’s television show to say he was open to the idea. He met privately with the three mayoral candidates to ask for an extra three months--a change that would also require special legislation.


Giuliani argued Thursday that even under normal circumstances, the period between the Nov. 6 election and the Jan. 1 inauguration of a successor wasn’t long enough for a smooth transfer of municipal power.

Now there’s the World Trade Center tragedy to deal with.

“This is not the best of circumstances, for any number of reasons,” he said. “So a lengthy, sensible, thoughtful, careful transition, if that’s what we can work out, will cure a problem that exists anyway, a problem that’s made more severe by the situation we’re in.

“This has to be the best transition the city’s ever done,” he said. That argument won over two potential successors. Republican businessman Michael Bloomberg agreed to the idea immediately, the mayor said.

Public advocate Mark Green, a Democrat and frequent Giuliani critic, also agreed to support legislation that would delay the inauguration for up to three months.

Also on Thursday, Giuliani announced that the number of dead rose to 305, with 238 already identified, and that the number of missing dropped to 5,960.

Part of the reason, he said, was that foreign governments handed in lists of people presumed to be in the twin towers who were later found in other parts of the country.


Rescue workers were also collecting a “very large number of unidentified parts of bodies,” he said, but it will take DNA matches to confirm victim identities.

Giuliani also said the city started bringing relatives to the World Trade Center site Wednesday and has banned cameras in the area to protect their privacy.