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Democrats Dominate New York Politics

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  • Democrats Dominate New York Politics

    Democrats Dominate New York Politics

    The Associated Press
    08/31/04 02:45 EDT

    NEW YORK (AP) - Seldom has a national political party held a
    nominating convention so deep in enemy territory. From the northern
    Bronx to Brooklyn's Coney Island boardwalk, from eastern Queens to
    the liberal fortress of Manhattan's Upper West Side, New York City
    is wall-to-wall Democrats.

    It's been that way for about 170 years.

    Among some 50-plus mayors during that time, only five have been
    Republicans. George Opdyke was elected during the Civil War; no
    other reached City Hall until Fiorello La Guardia in 1934. Even the
    current mayor, Michael Bloomberg, was a Democrat who switched parties
    to avoid a primary he had no chance to win. The last Republican that
    Gotham supported for president was Calvin Coolidge in 1924.

    How did a city that was founded by the conservative Dutch in the
    17th century and which disdained the American revolution in the 18th
    became a Democratic stronghold in the 19th? One word: immigration.

    Created in the 1830s, the New York Democratic Party's rise to power
    closely paralleled the city's role as receiving point for millions
    of immigrants, people needing help to start new lives from scratch.

    Germans, Irish, Jews, Italians and other Europeans who funneled
    through Ellis Island's immigration halls - along with blacks arriving
    from the South before and after the Civil War, and more recently
    Puerto Ricans and Dominicans - gravitated toward politicians who

    That was the Democratic Party, says Bronx-born former mayor Edward

    "New York built safety nets before any other government, as far as
    I know - at least that's the way we see ourselves - and that means
    concern for the other person," said Koch, a lifelong Democrat who
    served in Congress and for 12 years at City Hall.

    Ever the maverick, Koch is now backing President Bush for re-election,
    putting him at odds with his fellow New York Democrats, who outnumber
    Republicans by more than five to one.

    >>From the mid-1800s, the Democrats exercised power through Tammany
    Hall, a political machine that had been around for decades but enjoyed
    its heyday under William "Boss" Tweed, who united rival factions,
    dispensed patronage - and stole millions in public funds.

    "Tammany Hall would help get you a job, and you would help Tammany
    Hall by giving your vote," said Kenneth Jackson, a Columbia University
    professor of history and social sciences. "The Republicans were more
    concerned about taxes."

    In 1868, the actual Tammany Hall on 14th Street was the setting for
    the Democratic National Convention, the first of five the city has
    hosted, most recently in 1992. The Republicans have never hosted a
    convention here until now.

    In the early 1900s, as Tammany influence waned, the city's Democrats
    found common cause with the growing organized labor movement. Spurred
    by the 1911 Triangle Shirtwaist fire that killed 146 female immigrant
    workers, Democrats joined with unions to forge new safety laws for
    the New York-based garment industry and other workplaces.

    Robert F. Wagner and Alfred E. Smith, who led the Triangle fire
    investigation, became liberal crusaders on urban issues - Wagner
    as a judge and U.S. senator, Smith as New York governor and the
    Democratic presidential nominee in 1928.

    While the Irish, Italians and Jews still traded power at City Hall
    in postwar years, Harlem Rep. Adam Clayton Powell was the forerunner
    of a black political establishment that produced David Dinkins,
    the city's first black mayor, and is led today by Harlem Democratic
    Rep. Charles Rangel.

    All but three of New York's 51 city council members, all but one in
    the city's 18-member congressional delegation, and all but three of
    its 61 state Assembly members are Democrats.