Representatives of New York's labor and real estate establishment rallied to Mayor Abraham Beame's support today, seeking to keep his re-election chances afloat in newly choppy seas.
The Securities and Exchange Commission report on New York's fiscal crisis released Friday has generated torrents of news media coverage, almost all of it portraying the mayor as having misled New Yorkers about the extent of the crisis in 1974 and 1975.
It is an unhappy situation for the mayor 10 days before the Democratic primary, and has provoked charges from City Hall that the S5C far exceeded its jurisdiction and that the media and the afternoon New York Post in particular have distorted the SEC report.
After the Post ran an front-page story about the report under a headline "Anatomy of Deceit," Beame charged that Australian publisher Rupert Murdoch, who recently bought the paper, has reduce it to the level of Hustler magazine, which is on the raunchy edge of American Publishing.
In another city and another time a condemnation by a federal agency on the eve of a seven-candidate primary might be expected to crush the chances of a 71-year-old incumbent who has received generally unfavorable survey ratings throughout his four-year term. But Beame isn't being counted out yet.
He may need only the bedrock support he has from the shrinking but still important traditional Democratic strongholds such as the unions to emerge a winner and today's demonstration of support was designed to hold those voters in line.
It was a family takig care of its own as dolphins will cluster to keep afloat one of their kind that is wounded, because in one way or another all the other candidates with a chance to win come from outside the city's political system.
Without Beame, the city's Democratic party alliances wil need to be redrawn and influence re-established.
There is no precise measure of the SEC report's political impact, but Beame's challengers, apparently sensing a possible backlash if they seemed to be ganging up on the mayor, have been restrained in their comments. They have let the newspaper, radio and television carry the SEC criticism while they shook hands around town as if no bombshell had exploded.
The new uncertainly complicates a tight race, with so many undecided voters that all polls a week ago showed four of the seven aspirants had a chance of winning.
Former Congresswoman Bella Abzug, Beame, N.Y. Secretary of State Mario Cuomo and Rep. Edward Koch each had a chance to get into the two-person runoff primary, according to the polls.
Manhattan Borough President Percy Sutton, Rep. Herman Badillo and businessman Joel Harnett do not have a chance of winning, the polls indicated.
Labor lawyer Theodore Kheel, who together with the mayor's campaign staff organized today's show of support for Beame, pointed out that he had not endorsed Beame earlier and was speaking out now only in anger at the SEC report and what the headlines had made of it.
Barry Feinstein, president of Teamsters Local 237, said at a press conference that municipal unions have invested $3.6 billion of their pension funds in municipal securities to keep New York solvent, and warned that only Beame could keep labor peace in New York. It will be confrontation politics come January with any other mayor, he said.
"Pure nonsense," "an enormous red herring" and "legal mumbo-jumbo" were some of the descriptions given the SEC report.
The press conference was heavy with insinuation that the report's release so soon before the primary was politically inspired, but no one could or would name the inspirer.
"The SEC is supposed to be anove the swirling tides of political passions," said the Beame campaign chairman, Judge Owen McGivern, but he did not elaborate.
Although Beame's problem holds center stage at the moment in a primary that has not lacked for theatrical displays, his closest challengers also have problems in the waning days of the race.
Cuomo, little-known before the campaign and an entrant only after much pressure on the part of Gov. Hugh Carey has stopped soft-peddling that fact and will campaign with the governor this week.
Cuomo strategists calculated that to finish in the top two they needed a boost enough to risk the backlash that could occur if enough voters are turned off by the suggestion that Cuomo would be the governor's puppet should he win.
Abzug is trying to decide whether to be the new or the old Bella. Her campaign aimed from the beginning at wooing voters not ardently devoted to her by limiting some of her legendary brashness and some of her rougher edges.
But her standing in the polls has been shrinking. Three polls have shown her going from 30 per cent in May to 23 in July to 20 in late August.
Koch picked up the endorsement of the Post and the Daily News (The Times backs Cuomo) and has been spending every dollar he can get on TV advertising.He needs more dollars for a final push.
Koch, the congressman from Manhattan's East Side silk-stocking district, which has been redrawn to include some poorer areas, has also become the hard-line law-and-order candidate. He suggestions as to the fate of those who looted during the blackout July 13 have allowed him to emerge as the most conservative challenger to the mayor.
If no candidate receives 40 per cent of the vote Sept. 8, as seems cetrain, the top two finishers will qualify for a runoff Sept. 19. In that two-person field, thousands of voters will be switching to the original second or third choice and the possible realignments are mind-boggling. But for the next 10 days the strategy is to survive to run again - and then again, in the November general election.