Seven prominent New York Democrats are maneuvering for support in the New York Democratic gubernatorial primary following Gov. Hugh Carey's stunning decision not to run for reelection. There also is speculation about two other possible candidates.
The seven are Lt. Gov. Mario Cuomo, Assembly Speaker Stanley Fink of Brooklyn, New York City Council President Carol Bellamy, state Attorney General Robert Abrams, state Senate Minority Leader Manfred Ohrenstein of Manhattan, chairman of the Power Authority John Dyson, and Howard Samuels, a two-time candidate for governor and former head of the Off-Track Betting Corp.
The subjects of speculation are Mayor Ed Koch of New York City, who is keeping observers guessing by not flatly ruling out a race as he has in the past, and Rep. Mario Biaggi (D) of the Bronx.
After Carey's announcement, the seven potential candidates began scrambling to line up supporters, particularly the financial commitments to raise the $2 million they estimate is needed to carry each through the Democratic primary in September. In addition, Democratic and Republican party professionals estimate that the two major party candidates may spend as much as $12 million each in the general election.
"I'm in the process of calling 200 to 300 people around the state, party leaders, elected officials, businessmen and assorted other people," Ohrenstein said of the beginning of his fund-raising.
The seven potential candidates are well-known and ambitious Democratic Party figures whose political philosophies cut across the state's political spectrum.
"I've described it as an embarrassment of riches for our party," Cuomo said.
On the right is Dyson, a millionaire who is admired by Carey for his toughness and who many view as the New York Democratic Party's answer to William F. Buckley. An acerbic debater who favors the death penalty and the weakening of environmental regulations, Dyson has already raised $400,000 toward the campaign.
Dyson also said he plans to contribute "probably a million dollars" of his own to his gubernatorial race.
On the left of the political spectrum are Ohrenstein, Abrams and Bellamy, all products of the fractious world of New York City reform Democratic politics.
Cuomo, Fink and Samuels, the millionaire inventor of "Baggies," are considered centrists.
Abrams, Dyson, Ohrenstein, Samuels and Bellamy are expected to announce decisions within a month. By mid-March, Cuomo, who has said he would run, is expected to make it official.
Fink, occupied with the proposed new state budget and worried about the impact of his candidacy on Democratic control of the Assembly, may wait until May or June to decide.
Koch is the object of considerable attention. He flew home Monday from a vacation in Spain with David Garth, his media adviser, to be greeted by a New York Post editorial and a large coupon for readers to clip and mail in, both urging him to run.
He would not say yes or no about his intentions. "I haven't put a lock on the door," he said but insisted that did not mean he was running.
Biaggi also has encouraged speculation that he might enter the race, although he has little financial or organizational support for a statewide race.