New York Mayoral Vote Could Turn on Race Issue as Voters Head to the Polls in State and Local Races across the Nation Tomorrow, Many Look to Find Issues amid Shrill Personal Attacks

Article excerpt

CAN the glamour of a Kennedy or a Streisand save Mayor David Dinkins from losing his bid for reelection? Or will a tireless campaign drag in enough disaffected Democrats to put challenger Rudolph Giuliani in Gracie Mansion?

New Yorkers will get a chance to answer those questions - which have pushed the Amy Fisher affair and radio "shock jock" Howard Stern off the front pages of the city's tabloids - when they go to the polls tomorrow.

Mayor Dinkins, a Democrat, is favored by a slight margin, but polls show an upset is possible. While most surveys give Dinkins a narrow lead, a New York Newsday/WABC-TV poll has Giuliani ahead by 3 percent. At any rate, most of the poll results are within the margin of error.

The mayor's race is so close going into its final day in large measure because about 15 percent of voters remain undecided. According to polls, many of them are dismayed by what they see as Dinkins' weak leadership, but they are put off by Giuliani's aggressive - some would say overbearing - manner.

Still, says Larry Higick, director of political surveys at Princeton Survey Research Associates, "in a campaign like this one, the personalities don't matter much. Only race is a deciding factor."

Dinkins, who is black, expects to win almost 90 percent of the black vote (which accounts for roughly 20 percent of the city's voting population). But he needs a strong turnout among liberal white Democrats and independents to win.

The large Hispanic population - which also accounts for 20 percent of voters - is up for grabs. While most Hispanics are Democrats, many of these Roman Catholic voters were alienated by Dinkins's support for the Rainbow Curriculum, a failed attempt by education administrators to introduce sex-education into city schools.

Mr. Higick figures Giuliani, who is Italian-American, has a good chance of attracting those swing voters. …

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