Exactly two weeks after voting was halted by deadly terrorist strikes that forever altered New York City's physical, emotional and political landscape, voters are returning to the polls today to choose a successor to Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
New York City residents, many gripped with uncertainty and reeling from the aftermath of the nation's worst terrorist attack, headed to the polls today to choose the candidates who will appear on the ballot in November's general election.
Officials feared today's primary, postponed after terrorists attacked the World Trade Center Sept. 11, will draw an even lighter than usual turnout. Registered voters in each political party will narrow the field for the upcoming city races for mayor, city comptroller, public advocate and the City Council, as well as numerous other borough offices. If no candidate receives at least 40 percent of the vote, a runoff primary between that race's two top vote-getters will take place on Oct. 11.
Two weeks ago, the city's strong Democratic base made it likely that the outcome of November's mayoral election would rest on whichever Democrat was victorious in the primary. But that was before incumbent Giuliani won such high praise for his handling of the World Trade Center disaster.
On the eve of the voting Giuliani, who is required by existing term limit laws to vacate his office at the end of the year, indicated he might consider mounting a challenge to the term limit laws so he could seek a third term.
Giuliani is encouraging people to vote, while deflecting questions about his own political future amid pressure for him to find a way to circumvent a term limits law and stay on the job.
"People decide on their own whether they want to vote or they don't want to vote," Giuliani told reporters Monday at a televised news conference. "If they want to vote, then they should choose between and among the candidates that are there on the different lines."
Though a current term limits law would force Giuliani to leave office next year, his strongest supporters and top aides have been pushing him to stay on the job to help the city recover. He had been prepared to leave office quietly when his second term ends Dec. 31. But that was before a terrorist suicide mission destroyed the World Trade Center towers and forever altered the city skyline.
Since then, even Giuliani's political rivals have praised his response to the crisis. But while leaving the door open to entering the race at some point, Giuliani did nothing to suggest he plans to make a move.
"It is true that I have a future," Giuliani said. "I don't know what it is yet and, therefore, I don't have an announcement about it."
Too Late for Rudy?
The speculation may all be moot. A senior state elections official told ABCNEWS the only way Giuliani could appear on the general election ballot in November would be to win any party's nomination in today's primaries, receiving a plurality of the write-in votes and surviving a runoff.
Over the course of last week, aides to Giuliani and New York Gov. George Pataki — once bitter political rivals — were working behind the scenes to explore whether the city council or state Legislature would repeal the term limits law. Democrats, who control the state Assembly and City Council, were not interested.