New York's mayoral campaign, which started out with more innuendos of "tear-us-apart" than calls of "brings-us-together," got a further shove in that direction July 13, when the city went dark and looters took to the streets.
The blackout has given New York's seven Democratic aspirants new places to campaign and a new issue that many of them find uncomfortable.
In addition to the Bellagrams and Cuomobiles of Bella Abzug and Mario Cuomo and percy Sutton's song about turning New York into Sutton place, the campaign now features press conferences in front of Consolidated Edison's headquarters and walking tours of looted, burned streets.
Before the blackout, New Yorker manazine called the race an "undignified scramble" and found it hard to imagine how the incumbent, Mayor Abraham D. Beame, who in recent months has made hundreds of appearances at ceremonies, could become more visible.
The answer came with Beame's five press conferences during the blackout.
New York politics is still ethnic politics John Lindsay is the only white Anglo-Saxon Protestant elected mayor since 1905 and no WASP are running this year.
Even before the blackout, crime was a major issue and, as has often been the case in electoral politics, crime was in some minds a code word for race. After the looting, some of the niceties were abandoned - and not only by the candidates.
Newsweek magazine ran an almost-full-page ad in the New York Times promoting its blackout issue, with the headline: "They're Coming Across Bushwick Avenue Like Buffalo."
Any doubt as to who "they" were was removed by the accompanying photo of a black looter holding his booty.
Con Ed had barely restored the power when politicians and columnists delivered the verdict that the campaign hopes to Manhattan Borough President Sutton (black) and Rep. Herman Badillo (Puerto Rican) were smashed by the looters.
New York Post columnist Murray Kempton went the conventional wisdom a couple steps further and added Rep. Edward Koch and Beame to the list of casualities. That Kempton reckoned, left only Abzug and N.Y. Secretary of State Cuomo.
While everyone had a list of losers, however, there are sharp disagreements over which candidates benefited from the fears kindled by the blackout.
Abzug and Cuomo initially appeared uncertain how to respond, and it was Koch who made the most significant adaptation.
Needless to say, Sutton, Badillo, Koch and Beame resent having their names on anyone's casualty list. Rather than dead, they say, they're in second place - or close to it.
"We're number two," is the cry of the campaign, partly because Abzug's lead is wide enough in everybody's polls to promote candor and partly because New York pays off for second place.
If no candidate gets 40 per cent of the vote, as seems likely, the top two will be matched in a runoff 11 days after the Sept. primary.
If no candidate get 40 per cent of any campaign that publicly discusses its poll results must make the entire survey public through the Board of Election.
As a result, information about polls is provided on "deep background," if at all. And in lieu of precise numbers, campaign officials like to say: "Boy, if you could only see our polls." All of which makes it easier for so many candidates to maintain their optimism.
TTSutton and Badillo have sought to turn the blackout looting to their advantage by pointing out that they were the only candidates who walked the streets during the troubles, urging people to remain calm and defusing potential confrontation between police and crowds.
"New York needs a mayor who knows the people and can walk the streets," Sutton said last week.
Until the blackout, Badillo says, he was losing votes with his call for rebuilding of the slums. "Now people look at the alternative, which is to ignore the slums, put everyone in jail and hope the poor will keep quiet - and I gain vote," he said.
Violence in the street is going to happen again, with or without a blackout. Badillo predicts. He is sharply critical of President Carter's pronouncement that life is unfair to the poor. That statement does nothing to discourage looting when an opportunity like the blackout presents itself, he said in an interview.
Neither Badillo, who lost the 1973 runoff to Beame, nor 11-year borough president Sutton, who swung many black votes from Badillo to Beame four years ago, had any recognition problems during the campaign this year.
Neither did Abzug or Beame, but it has been an expensive task for Koch and Cuomo.
Koch has spent more than $300,000 on a campaign that consists almost entirely of television advertising and street corner talks with small groups of voters.
"After eight years of charisma [Landsay] and four years of the club house [Beame], why not try competence," Koch's logan.
Koch, a liberal who represents an affluent Manhattan congressional district, has taken the strongest law-and-order line since the blackout.
In a field that has no conservative candidate except the mayor Koch has been saying regularly since the blackout that the National Guard should have been called in and a curfew should have been imposed.
Cuomo is depending on the media and polling talents that helped put Carter in the White House. Gerald Rafshoon is doing his television ads, and pat Caddell his polling; both worked in Carter's campaign.
Cuomo brings to the campaigh a record of losing his only other bid for elective office - when he failed to get the Democratic nomination for Lieutenant Governor in 1974 - the support of Govt Hugh Carey, who dragged a reluctant Cuomo into the race, and the only Indian-American candidacy.
Being Italian-American has gotten Cuomo an apptarance with Frank Sinatra (Muhammad Ali appeared with Sutton), but more significant, it gives him a base on which to build, his campaign workers believe.
In 1973, Italian-American candidates, who were not terribly well-known, won between 21 and 24 per cent of the vote, throughout the city.Catholics from Italy and other European countries for the first time comprise almost as large as a segment of the voting population as Jews.
Cuomo is the only candidate running from outside Manhattan, and he hopes to run well in Queens - where he lives - Brooklyn and Staten Island, while the others fight over the Manhattan vote.
Abzug as the acknowledges front runner, is the target of all the others. Koch and Cuomo have been attacking her statement that police and firemen should have the right to strike, as other city employees do.
Not many other issues have brought sharp divisions in the race. While the battle rages in Washington over federal funds abortions, for example, all seven Democratic candidates here have strongly endorsed providing such funds.
Abzug's campaign is not aimed at a single ethnic group and her support comes from all over the city. After years f prominence in Congress and a senate primary campaign in which she narrowly lost to Daniel Patrick Moynihan last year, she has not yet had to wage a television campaign.
She has been working to ease the business community's fears tha Abzug in City Hall would be a signal to more business to abandon New York. "Bella Means Business" goes one new slogan, and her campaign is being designed to convice those who don't like the raucous Abzug image that "there's more to Bella than meets the ear."
The problem for Beame, as the man who was mayor during four years that saw New York narrowly avert bankruptcy, is to explain that he inherited the fiscal crisis from Lindsay.
"I want to finish the job," Beame, 71, said when he announced his candidacy, Koch was quick to ask: "Hasn't he done enough?"
The blackout gave Beame uprecedented public exposrue as the city's leader and coping with a major crisis and it gave him two unpopular targets to campaign against - Con Ed and looters. Before the blackout, however, one of his vocal points was his ability to keep the city quiet. Now he has come under fire from New Yorkers who think he should have taken stronger action, such as calling out the National Guard.
The remaining Democratic candidate is businessman Joel Harnett, who is given no chance of winning.
In most election years, the Democratic nomination has been a ticket to city hall, but whoever wins this primary will face a strong challenge in November from Republican state Sen. Roy Goodman, who is expected to defeat radio talk show host Barry Farber in the Republican primary.
Both Cuomo and Farber will be on the November ballot, nevertheless because Cuomo already has the Liberal Party nomination and Farber has the Conservative party's.