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Saturday, September 17, 2005

As Ferrer Gains Support, Bloomberg Chooses to Withhold Some - New York Times

As Ferrer Gains Support, Bloomberg Chooses to Withhold Some - New York TimesSeptember 17, 2005
As Ferrer Gains Support, Bloomberg Chooses to Withhold Some
By JIM RUTENBERG and DIANE CARDWELL

On the day that Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton endorsed the mayoral candidacy of Fernando Ferrer, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg broke with the Republican White House and said he opposed the Supreme Court nomination of Judge John G. Roberts Jr.

In a statement handed out to reporters at City Hall yesterday, Mr. Bloomberg complimented Judge Roberts's legal knowledge and integrity but said that he was opposed to the nomination because he did not accept "the landmark Roe v. Wade ruling as settled law."

"What I was waiting for, as were many Americans, was a clear affirmation that the life-altering decision as to whether or not to have a child must be a woman's decision," Mr. Bloomberg said in his statement. "Unfortunately, Judge Roberts's response did not indicate a commitment to protect a woman's right to choose."

During his confirmation hearings, Judge Roberts has declined to state his position on Roe v. Wade explicitly, saying, "I should stay away from discussions of particular issues that are likely to come before the court again."

At the White House, a senior aide said that the news was not received warmly and that the administration's annoyance with Mr. Bloomberg was promptly shared with his campaign team.

Mr. Bloomberg's aides would not discuss the exchange, but did not seem displeased that the exchange had become public; it portrayed the mayor as battling the administration to which the Democrats are trying to tie him.

Mr. Bloomberg has no role in the Senate confirmation process, but he has been pilloried throughout the campaign season for his ties to the Republican governor and president. He has now staked out a position, however, that burnishes his appeal among Democrats in an area where Mr. Ferrer has made seemingly inconsistent statements.

For his part, Mr. Ferrer said in July that he opposed the nomination because of what he saw as a lack of commitment to protecting abortion rights and because of Mr. Roberts's role as Gov. Jeb Bush's adviser during the Florida vote recount in the 2000 presidential election.

The mayor's statement came on a day when Mr. Ferrer reveled in his new status as the presumptive Democratic nominee and tried to create a sense of excitement for his campaign with glowing endorsements from Mrs. Clinton and Senator Charles E. Schumer. But Mr. Bloomberg's campaign clearly intended to make a pre-emptive strike with a statement that could undercut the endorsements and curb the effect of early attacks by Mr. Ferrer on Mr. Bloomberg's Republican connections.

The Bloomberg campaign also worked to make further inroads into Mr. Ferrer's strongest base of support - Hispanics - by releasing a 30-second Spanish-language television advertisement featuring the salsa singer Willie Colón urging New Yorkers to re-elect Mr. Bloomberg. At a news briefing at Mr. Bloomberg's headquarters yesterday, Mr. Colón said he intended to campaign actively for the mayor in Puerto Rican neighborhoods.

Mr. Bloomberg's statement about Judge Roberts seemed to have had at least some of its intended benefit: It was picked up by national news agencies and also the Drudge Report Web site - closely read by the nation's political classes - which linked to a Reuters report calling Mr. Bloomberg "the first noted Republican to break with the Bush administration over who should lead America's top court."

Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Schumer said that they were still weighing their decisions about how to vote on Judge Roberts. Mr. Schumer is a member of the Judiciary Committee, which is currently considering the nomination, but Mr. Bloomberg's move may raise even more interest in what Mrs. Clinton, who is considering a presidential race, may do.

The senators, however, would not be drawn into any discussion of Mr. Bloomberg, saying the day was all about Mr. Ferrer.

"We have a lot of positive things to say about Freddy," said Mrs. Clinton, who said that she and her husband, Bill, would campaign for him as their schedules permitted.

Both senators praised Mr. Ferrer for contributing to the renaissance of the Bronx and for what they said was his history in helping those less fortunate.

"He believes that if you're given an opportunity in life, you have an obligation to make sure the door stays open behind you," Mrs. Clinton said. "Now these are not only Freddy's values, these are Democratic values."

But for all of the invocation of Democratic identity, Mr. Ferrer at one point blew a kiss across party lines. In accepting the endorsement, made before students and faculty at LaGuardia Community College in Long Island City, Queens, he alluded to Mr. Bloomberg in discussing the man for whom the school is named, painting the mayor as incapable of understanding the lives of ordinary New Yorkers.

Fiorello H. La Guardia, he said, "came from about the same place we did and knew what life was at the top because he started out at the bottom and it gives you a real sense of what New York is all about, right from its sidewalks."

Mr. La Guardia, the city's 99th mayor, was a Republican.

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