Fred Mogul, Reporter, WNYC News
Fred Mogul has been covering healthcare and medicine for WNYC since 2002.
New York, NY –
Queens Congressman Anthony Weiner knows he is the least recongnized of the Democratic hopefuls who want to unseat Mayor Bloomberg. But the former city councilman and aide to Charles Schumer has done well in the first two debates. And now, one survey puts him in a three-way tie for second place for his party's nomination. WNYC's Fred Mogul spent a day with Weiner and files this report.
REPORTER: The first public event of the day is at Pace University, talking to the Citizen’s Crime Commission. Candidate Weiner arrives a half-hour late, apologizes, and breezes up to the podium. The organizers also apologize – for a largely empty room.
Today is finals day, and we went upstairs, and we asked the professors if the classes could come down, and the students said Yes, and the professors said No.
Weiner launches into his crime and security speech. The written script his aides hand out is short, but he doesn’t stick to it. Weiner delves into things like transit crime, rape kits, and DNA testing, one of his favorite subjects.
WEINER: Currently, if you’ve completed your sentence before the law that now requires the taking of DNA analysis – saliva or blood samples – I would require you, even if you’re in that group, to come back and give your sample.
REPORTER: Weiner takes questions from panelists and the audience, shakes hands afterward, briefly talks to a reporter, and is off to the first media appearance of the day -- about 15 minutes on WNYC’s “Brian Lehrer Show.” Then, he hops into his campaign car, and heads to a picnic for the elderly. While riding in his Ford hybrid SUV, he talks about schools, parks, housing, transportation, healthcare, economic development. He is a little slowed down by a kidney stone that has yet to pass, but is buoyed by his improved standing in the latest pre-primary poll.
WEINER: I’m the only person who has a specific plan on Governors Island, the only person that has a proposal on how to eliminate the 1.8 million uninsured in this city, the only person that has a proposal on how to eliminate the 500-thousand hungry children in this city, um, how to eliminate hunger among children in this city…
REPORTER: Weiner believes the city can cut taxes and still find a way to pay teachers and cops more, re-open fire houses and help build affordable housing. How? By eliminating billions of dollars a year worth of what he calls budgetary “waste” and by hitting Albany harder for both money and control.
WEINER: We should not have our parking ticket levels decided by Albany. We shouldn’t have red light cameras decided by Albany, we shouldn’t have…
REPORTER: The trip is a long one, to Sunken Meadow State Park in Nassau County. Assemblyman Vito Lopez each summer invites thousands of people out here, from senior centers in Brooklyn and Queens. Candidates for several different offices are stopping by this year.
WEINER: [to aides]: I’m sorry, I don’t think I’m gonna go to this, when I’m mayor. If they can’t find a place to do this in NYC, I’m really not interested in going. I’m not even sure I’m allowed here.
REPORTER: The car pulls up to a shady hillside covered with picnic tables – and with what pollsters call “likely primary voters.” Weiner’s team grabs placards and forms a phalanx behind him. The group moves in unison from picnic table to picnic table.
WEINER: Hey guys, I’m Anthony Weiner. I’m running for mayor. Any laws you want passed today? [Aside] Goodness, it’s like sensory overload.
REPORTER: Many of the people he meets have no idea who he is, but Weiner is unfazed.
AW: You doin ok today? How’m I doing? –You’re lookin good. AW: Thank you for noticing! –You probably didn’t eat in a year! AW: What are you talkin’ about, I’m workin out, I’m big as a house. You know, we have the debate the other night, my mother sees me, and she’s like, “Anthony, you look thin,” and I’m like, “Mom, I’ve been thin my entire life – where’s the news in that?” But I been eating more recently, so don’t worry about me . You know, they say You can’t be too rich or too thin. We’ve had a mayor that’s too rich, now we’ll have one that’s too thin.
REPORTER: Not far away, Mayor Bloomberg is also working the crowd – and attracting more attention.
MAYOR BLOOMBERG: Hello, hello everybody. How are you?
REPORTER: Bloomberg is more casually dressed – sporting a pink polo shirt to Weiner’s white-shirt-and-tie. But Weiner seems to be having more fun. He loves bantering with people, even when they’re indifferent…actually, especially when they’re indifferent. And especially when their headgear suggests they might be Mets fans…
AW: Very nice to see you. Are you a Mets fan? -I’m Mets and Yankees. AW: No such thing -- pick a side! –I’m Mets and Yankees -- half-and-half. AW: You politicians are always trying to straddle the fence. -That's right!
REPORTER: On the way back to the city, Weiner multi-tasks, reading emails on his Blackberry, gesturing to his driver where to turn, and taking phone calls from reporters. They’re all asking about the labor groups picketing his office with a large inflatable rat, because he scolded the unions for backing Bloomberg.
WEINER: They protest outside my office because I point out they endorsed a Republican? I mean I’ve been the victims of some protests before, but this one has to be the strangest one I’ve seen in a while.
REPORTER: Weiner returns to his Lower Manhattan office. He phones his doctor, and meets with or calls staff members, consultants and backers. In the late afternoon, he goes to Borough Park to address the editorial board of an Orthodox Jewish newspaper, and then it’s off to New York 1 in Chelsea, in the early evening.
NY-1: We’re back on the "Road to City Hall." We’re joined now by Congressman Anthony Weiner ...
REPORTER: Host Davidson Goldin.
NY-1: ...you were rushed to the hospital the other night with a kidney stone . We’re glad you’re all right. Were you surprised to read in the papers that your doctor, Dr. Moss, it turns out, is the brother of Mitchell Moss, one of the mayor’s top advisors? AW: Don’t under-estimate the reach of the Bloomberg administration. They can find you wherever you are….
REPORTER: Weiner answers questions about his poll ratings, his squabble with the unions, and the Campaign Finance Board’s withholding of matching funds because his mayoral campaign might have improperly used resources from his congressional campaign. Later, back in the SUV, Weiner is being driven to the last two events of the day in Brooklyn…
WEINER: Just gotta get to the left here and shoot the gap and go right up the left side…
REPORTER: He’s in a good mood -- happy with the striking full-moon that hovers just above the Brooklyn Bridge and with a CD mix that includes R.E.M. and Guns n’Roses…
WEINER: Knock, knock knockin on Heaven’s door…
REPORTER: Weiner briefly speaks at a forum at a north Brooklyn church before heading down around 9:30pm to a birthday party for Assemblyman Bill Colton, at a Democratic Club in Bensonhurst. Once again, Weiner’s irrepressible Eddie Haskell charm plays well with the elderly set.
WEINER: Gentlemen, keep up the great work -Mayor Anthony ! AW: Right, you were the one who said Pray to Saint Anthony of All Selections…
REPORTER: And finally, about 15 hours after it started, the day winds down. Weiner’s driver takes him back to Forest Hills, while staff members hit the subway for long rides back home. It’s been a good day for Weiner. His anti-union tirade has generated fresh headlines, and a new poll shows him climbing into a three-way tie with Gifford Miller and C. Virginia Fields for second place in next month’s primary. Mind you, that’s a distant second: 33 percent of Democratic voters favor Fernando Ferrer, more than twice as many as Weiner’s 16 percent. So…does Weiner think the front-runner will hit 40 percent and avoid a run-off? "Well," he jokes, “I’m not sure if I’ll get that high in the first round, but I just might.”» A Day in the Life: Michael Bloomberg