El Diario Endorses Thompson, Likening Bloomberg To Hugo Chavez

El Diario Endorses Thompson, Likening Bloomberg to Hugo Chvez

By Michael Barbaro
The New York Times, October 15, 2009

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg has spent years trying to perfect his Spanish. He bucked Republican allies to endorse immigration reform. And he has created a package of small-business services called the Latino Business Initiative.

He has been rewarded with dozens of endorsements from ethnic news organizations.

But on Thursday, the citys biggest and most influential Spanish-language newspaper sent a different message: 'adis.'

In a front-page editorial, it endorsed his opponent, Comptroller William C. Thompson Jr., with a withering indictment of Mr. Bloombergs eight years in office.

The editorial, in El Diario La Prensa, compared Mr. Bloomberg to Hugo Chvez, the Venezuelan president, for his all-out campaign to upend the term limits law so he could seek a third term.

At least Mr. Chvez, it said, held a referendum to extend his time in power. 'New Yorkers were not even given that chance,' the editorial said. It called Mr. Bloombergs term limits maneuver 'not simply slick scheming' but 'a gross abuse of power.'

It was an unexpectedly sharp rebuke from the newspaper, and it seemed to catch the Bloomberg campaign off guard. The newspaper which claims a paid circulation of 53,000, and 266,000 daily readers in print and online has reliably endorsed Democratic mayoral candidates in the past.

But aides to the mayor had held out some hope of winning its support this time. Bradley Tusk, Mr. Bloombergs campaign manager, met with top editors at the paper in recent weeks, and three smaller Spanish-language papers, El Especialito, El Especial and EcuaTimes, have backed Mr. Bloomberg in the last few weeks.

The El Diario editorial raised a flag for the Bloomberg camp. For months, those close to the mayor have argued that the term limits issue was the obsession of a narrow group of well-heeled progressives. But the editorial suggested that anger over the issue may cut across ethnic and class lines.

Mr. Thompson, whose campaign trails the mayor in polls and in money, is hoping to draw support from working-class and middle-class voters precisely the kind of voters El Diario reaches.

Still, he lags far behind the mayor in overall newspaper endorsements, which the Bloomberg campaign has pursued assiduously. So far, 48 have endorsed the mayor. Just two have backed Mr. Thompson since the Democratic primary.

'Every newspaper is different, but when 48 different newspapers across the city endorse one candidate, compared to just 2 for our opponent, that clearly says something,' Mr. Tusk said.

The El Diario editorial portrayed New York under Mr. Bloomberg as a city that ignored the needs of Latinos, who it said never enjoyed the economic boom and have suffered the most from the recession.

'After a decade misspent lionizing the rich and their excesses, too many New Yorkers are paying the price,' the editorial said.

The editorial said that Mr. Thompson 'has a sterling record in both the private and public sectors,' first at the Board of Education, then the comptrollers office, and would reorient the priorities of City Hall to focus on tenants rights, affordable housing and small businesses.

It praised Mr. Bloomberg for making poverty reduction a priority and taking control of city schools. Curiously, however, the editorial did not mention immigration reform, language accessibility or the treatment of undocumented workers, issues Mr. Bloomberg has tackled repeatedly in office and promotes frequently on the campaign trail.

The omission suggested that the newspapers editorial board, and its readers, are much more anxious about the citys economy.

On Thursday, New York Amsterdam News, the citys largest African-American newspaper, also endorsed Mr. Thompson, as expected. Like El Diario, it seized on the term limits issue. 'We have had a mayor for eight years who, ultimately, has put his own ambitions and will above the will of the people,' its editorial said.

Mr. Thompson said he was 'proud and honored' to have the two endorsements, and he echoed their populist tone. 'The hard-working men and women of New York City deserve a mayor who will put their needs ahead of the rich and powerful.'