Six months until election day, many New Yorkers can’t recognize mayoral candidates

Posted at 11:25 PM, May 16, 2013
and last updated 2013-05-16 23:28:00-04

Downtown, BROOKLYN (PIX11) — The field of nearly a dozen people who want to be mayor may be full of men — and one woman — who have the drive and persistence to hold the city’s highest office, but what they don’t have, despite spending $3 million so far on campaigns, is recognition among voters.

An unscientific survey further shows that people who are as yet undeclared or undecided as candidates may have as good a chance of becoming mayor as people who’ve been in the race for many months.

PIX11 News went out to a busy New York City intersection — Atlantic and Flatbush  Avenues in Brooklyn — to ask a very simple question of potential voters:  Can you name any of the candidates for mayor?

The headshakes, and other responses, such as the “No.  Honestly, no,”  from Keyana Barber of the Bronx, indicated one of two things:  that either the people who wish to be mayor have some serious work ahead of them to get noticed by voters, or New York City will end up with a mayor elected by a small minority of its citizens who know barely anything about any of the large field of candidates.

In the most recent polls, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn has been ahead of the pack.  However, she needs 40 percent of the primary vote, as opposed to the 28 percent that she registered in the April 19th Quinnipiac College poll in order to avoid a runoff election.

PIX11 News showed Quinn’s photo randomly at the Brooklyn intersection where passengers from ten different train lines converge, and the impromptu focus groups that were encountered could provide a sobering lesson for the Quinn campaign.

“I applied for an internship with her,” said Roksolana Sheverack, as she looked at Quinn’s picture, “and I totally forgot her name right now.”

Other people that were consulted could not get the presumed front runner’s first name right.  “Cathleen Quinn,” was Iona Fromboluti’s answer to the request to name a mayoral candidate.

Yet another woman called the Democrat from the West Village Carolyn Quinn.  But the woman who referred to the City Council leader turned mayoral candidate that way gets something of a pass, because she’s French, and because she at least knew a candidate’s name, unlike some native New Yorkers PIX11 News encountered.

One remarkable thing happened, however, when people were shown photos of the candidates and a couple of other local leaders.  “[That’s Anthony] Weiner, our police commissioner, Liu, I guess that’s Quinn,” said Fromboluti as she looked at a sheet of paper that showed the pictures of eight prominent New Yorkers.

The page included former Queens congressman Anthony Weiner, who had to resign his seat in disgrace two years ago after a series of racy tweets that he’d sent out to individual followers became public.

“He’s trying to run for mayor again, and he had a whole scandal,” said Kristina Sandler.  “And he’s hoping it won’t affect his running for mayor.”  It was a clear example of there being no such thing as negative publicity.

Weiner, in the PIX11 News unscientific survey, was recognized at a higher rate than most of the people in the running for City Hall, even though he has not yet officially declared his candidacy.

Also getting high recognition was a city leader who has insisted he is not seeking to run for mayor.  “Police Commissioner Ray Kelly,” said a man who would only give his first name, Emmanuel, as he pointed to photos of people who are, or might consider, running for the mayor’s office.  Emmanuel also pointed out Quinn and Weiner.

In fact, those three had the highest facial recognition in the unscientific survey, having been named five different times each by people randomly selected outside Atlantic Terminal at Brooklyn’s Flatbush and Atlantic Avenue intersection.

Following them in the survey, having been recognized four times, was John Liu, although at least one person who picked out Liu’s picture from the field of candidates singled him out as someone he would make a point not to vote for.

Bill De Blasio, the city’s Public Advocate, who is from the borough where the unscientific survey took place, had three people recognize and name him in a lineup of photos.

However, no matter how much or how little recognition each city leader received, one theme dominated.  “The person I want to be mayor,” said Marty Zeiger of Queens, “I can’t see” on the list provided.  He said that there’s nobody in the running he feels strongly enough about to support, although he ended up saying reluctantly that he could vote, “possibly, [for] the commissioner, Ray Kelly.”

It was clear that, less than six months from Election Day, that there are no shoo-ins in the race.

When asked if there was any candidate that excited her, Iona Fromboluti’s reply was representative of virtually everyone with whom we spoke.  “At the moment, no,” she said.