Controversial New York Pol Gets the Boot

By E.J. Kessler

Published September 23, 2005, issue of September 23, 2005.
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The ousting this week of an unpopular ally, New York Independence Party leader Lenora Fulani, is expected to bring about some benefits for New York’s Republican mayor, Michael Bloomberg.

Fulani, an erstwhile Marxist and perennial fringe candidate whom many New Yorkers consider antisemitic, was a leader of the Independence Party’s downstate faction. She and five associates were voted out of the state party executive committee September 18 at a party confab in the New York state capital, Albany. The ousting occurred after her refusal to recant remarks stating that Jews “had to sell their souls to acquire Israel” and “function as mass murderers of people of color” made her position untenable.

Bloomberg and some other New York Jewish politicians, including Democratic Senator Charles Schumer and Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, had courted Fulani for her party’s endorsement despite her history of such rhetoric. With a platform of electoral reform, the Independence Party has become the Empire State’s third largest and a rich source of votes. Bloomberg in particular, who gained almost 60,000 votes on the party’s ballot line — more than his margin of victory in 2001 — lavished attention and money on Fulani’s faction. His support of Fulani earned him barbs from the New York State Democratic Committee, which called on him to renounce the party’s support.

Two weeks ago, Spitzer told Independence Party brass that he would not accept their ballot line if Fulani remained in the party; this sealed her departure. But when Fulani got the boot this week, pundits saw many feet doing the kicking — including, possibly, those of Bloomberg.

“This is ‘Murder on the Orient Express,’” said City University of New York political scientist Doug Muzzio. “Everybody is rejoicing. Everybody could have had a hand in it, but several probably did. Clearly, [Bloomberg] is not displeased with this. Now the party’s line is not tainted.”

However, others questioned whether Fulani’s ouster from the state party committee was all that meaningful.

Fulani “still controls the well-funded, well-organized Manhattan [Independence] party, one of the few chapters with any real members,” The New York Observer’s Politicker blog stated. “That’s the one that’s backing [Bloomberg] in force, and so this move doesn’t really affect his relationship with the party.”

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