Congressman Charles Rangel took a swipe at Mayor Michael Bloomberg yesterday, claiming that the mayor has allied himself with controversial Independence Party activist Lenora Fulani in pushing for non-partisan city elections.
"The only person that I truly know that supports Mayor Bloomberg's position is Lenora Fulani," the Harlem Democrat said, in what was an unusually public break between two of the city's most influential elected officials. "It just seems to me that the mayor has a lot of explaining to do as to why people who have been so supportive of his administration were completely ignored and he would go to someone like Miss Fulani to guide what's left of his political career."
Under the Bloomberg plan, city party primaries would be abolished. A city charter commission is currently reviewing the proposal.
Bloomberg administration officials said Fulani's position on a subject would not influence the mayor's viewpoint. They also noted that the charter commission has yet to recommend whether to place the measure on the November ballot.
Democratic Party officials, meanwhile, applauded the jibe, which came during a gathering yesterday outside City Hall to endorse City Councilman Bill Perkins' reelection bid.
Not surprisingly, in a city where Democrats hold a 5-to-1 majority among registered voters, Democratic elected officials oppose the measure. Critics argue the proposal would aid Bloomberg in a re-election bid in 2005.
But Bloomberg's Director of Communications, William Cunningham said: "I don't think anyone in Chicago is wondering what party Richard Daley is in, or Thomas Mennino in Boston, or Willie Brown in San Francisco. It is simply a way to allow more people to take part in the process."
Rangel also suggested that non-partisan elections would remove accountability from the election process.
"The fact that you can tell where the direction of reform is coming from is a plus," said Rangel, who recently suggested that former President Bill Clinton could run against Bloomberg for the mayoral post. "They are elected every two years. You can get rid of them. You can join the club. You can have insurgencies."
But Cunningham suggested that the current Democratic Party controlled process is closed to all but insiders. "Look at how Brooklyn selects judges, how closed that is," he said.
"For Charlie Rangel, campaign promises means nothing because it's a one party town," Fulani said through a spokeswoman. "Now Mr. Rangel is going to have to get used to it because many people other than me are going to support the mayor on this one."
Fulani has a history of infiltrating herself and her organization into third party politics, including Ross Perot's Reform Party and ultra-conservative Pat Buchanan's run for president.