Geraldine Ferraro, the Forest Hills Gardens
housewife-turned-vice-presidential-candidate-turned-political-talk-show-host, is back in
the political trenches.
Geraldine Ferraro is back.
Tribune Photo By David Lieberman
While many will remember Ferraro as the first woman on a national election ticket -
Walter Mondales running mate in his failed bid for the U.S. Presidency in 1984 -
others will remember her as a three-term Queens congresswoman. Others will remember her as
housewife who attended law school at night while raising children, to become a Queens
assistant district attorney and founder of the DAs Special Victims Bureau,
supervising the prosecution of sex offenders.
Earlier this month, Ferraro, who for the last three years has hosted CNNs
"Crossfire," entered the race for Republican Al DAmatos U.S. Senate
seat, up for election in November.
Following her declaration to run - after six years away from elected office -
Ferraro immediately became the front-runner over two other Democratic hopefuls: New York
City Public Advocate Mark Green from Manhattan, and Congressman Charles Schumer, whose
district is split between Brooklyn and Queens.
According to Quinnipiac College poll taken last month among 1,048 New Yorkers, 48
percent of the people surveyed said that they would vote for Ferraro if the Democratic
primary election were held that day, compared with 25 percent for Green and 12 percent for
Schumer. Only four days after announcing her candidacy, she had already raised $1.1
million, according to the Ferraro camp.
But whoever wins the Democratic nod will face a tough race against incumbent
DAmato. Ferraro has been down that road: in her challenge to DAmato six years
ago, Ferraro watched her lead evaporate in the face of attacks against her husband,
realtor John Zaccaro, by fellow Democratic contenders Robert Abrams and Liz Holtzman,
which ultimately disintegrated all three campaigns, and helped DAmato win
U.S. Presidential candidate Walter Mondale
with running mate Ferraro at a 1984 news conference.
QT: What can Geraldine Ferraro do for New York City and for Queens as
a U.S. Senator?
Ferraro: Its not only New York City and Queens, but its
New York State. Its taking a close look at the issues that are of concern to us here
in the city, and I think the main issues are education, health care and a continuing
economy that provides job opportunities for not only Wall Street, which we have going, but
for middle-class working people and for kids coming out of school. Basically, those are
the issues that I will be focusing on in the campaign, and those are the issues that
Ill be focusing on when I go down to the Senate.
If you take a close look at my record when I was a member of Congress representing the
9th Congressional District in Queens, we provided probably the best constituent service, I
think, at that time of any office in Queens County, and maybe of any office in the city or
People are concerned about the fact that Al DAmato has provided that constituent
service and theyre worried that they might lose that. I dont think they have
to worry and I think my record shows they dont have to worry if I get elected. So,
well be providing for people of Queens, people of the city, people of the state on a
legislative level as well as on a constituent service level. The problem with DAmato
is that hes only provided on a constituent service level. Hes failed to
provide on a national level the kind of leadership we need for us to not only have our
voices heard, but also to provide a response to the federal government on the needs of the
QT: Youve been out of the political life since 1992 while your
opponents have been in the political forefront. Do you think thats an asset or a
liability to your campaign?
Ferraro: I have been out of elective office - the taxpayer has not
been paying for me to do the things Ive been doing for the last six years - but
Ive never been out of a position where I have failed to speak up against inequity
... I spent four years as the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Human Rights
Commission. The work I did there, its interesting, its unknown to a lot of
people. When I was down at the Commission the first year, they asked me what my view of it
was ... and I said its the best-kept secret in the world. People dont know the
work thats done - people dont know about the lives that are saved with the
leadership of the United States.
Ferraro, flanked by Council Speaker Peter
Vallone, far left, and Borough President Claire Shulman and Councilman Morton Povman,
right, announcing her bid for U.S. Senate in 1992.
I have difficulty comprehending what the negative is about being out of political
office. Most people in the real world consider their jobs very valuable, consider their
experiences very valuable. While I was not in office for the last six years ... I have
been debating the issues that are facing this country on national television with members
QT: You requested that your opponents sign a pledge to refrain from
personal attacks during the campaign. So far, from your point of view, has your request
Ferraro: No, and its interesting to see the response of the
media, thinking [the request] is so outrageous ... We got an agreement in 1992 that there
would not be negative attacks ... You saw at the end of the campaign, the personal attacks
started. Its not only Gerri Ferraro who wants a definite statement that this will
not happen again ... The only thing we were successful in doing [in 1992] was re-electing
DAmato ... Ive been there, done that. Ive seen what Democrats can do to
QT: While your opponents have been given the lions share of the
blame for the self-destructive 1992 Democratic primary election for U.S. Senate, what did
you learn from the experience?
Ferraro: To make sure I get a commitment that it would not be
repeated. Theres an old saying, if you make a fool of me once, shame on you. If you
make a fool of me twice, shame on me ... I am more than anxious to discuss why I would be
a better senator than my opponents. I just want to make sure that were talking about
ability to be effective and our work experience.
QT: Some of the pundits have tagged you a liberal. Do you agree with
Ferraro: I go from being too liberal to not [being] liberal enough,
depending upon where theyre coming from in the political spectrum. Its
interesting that the conservatives think of me as too liberal and the liberals think of me
as too conservative, which means that Im probably right square in the center.
|Geraldine Ferraro Career Highlights:
Queens Congresswoman, 9th District, first elected 1978; host of "Crossfire,"
CNNs political interview and commentary show; alternate U.S. Delegate to World
Conference on Human Rights, 1993; U.S. Ambassador to U.N. Human Rights Commission,
1994-1996; Vice-Chair of U.S. delegation to Fourth World Conference on Woman, 1995; former
elementary school teacher and Queens County assistant district attorney. Currently a board
member of the National Italian-American Foundation, the Planned Parenthood Federation of
America, and Fordham Law School; author of two books and mother of three.