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Wednesday, 26 September, 2001, 17:32 GMT 18:32 UK
NY faces up to future without Rudy
Voters try a "write-in" campaign
One figure has come to symbolise the US's determination - New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani. Yet his traumatised city is already contemplating a future without "Rudy the Rock" and reluctantly electing his successor, writes BBC News Online's Ryan Dilley from New York.

As United Airlines Flight 175 and American Airlines Flight 11 set their deadly course for the World Trade Center on the morning of 11 September, the city's still unaware voters were preparing to cast the first ballots in the race to see who would replace Rudolph Giuliani as their mayor.

No one compares to this guy

NY voter
Within hours of the horrific attack on the twin towers, the primary elections had been abandoned and the "lame duck" mayor was beginning his transformation into a national hero.

When the race resumed Republican hopefuls Michael Bloomberg and Herman Badillo were competing for a place on the final ballot paper later in the year. Now having won the primary, Mr Bloomberg's will be the Republican name voters see.

Thumbs up - Giuliani shows solidarity
Having served in City Hall since 1993, Mr Giuliani is legally barred from seeking a third consecutive term of office - even had the majority of voters cared to back him.

For in this liberal and largely Democratic city, many of the mayor's policies had failed to win him voter sympathy. His "zero tolerance" fight against crime, for instance, is blamed by some for a heightening of racial tensions.

However, since the mayor set about putting his winded city back on its feet, his composure and sure-footedness have won admirers even among young African-Americans.

"I never had any time for Giuliani," says Brooklyn resident Kevin Harrison. "But I think he's done a great job."

He's just doing his job

Another NY voter
At the beginning of September, wags had been circulating posters calling for voters to "write-in" the newly arrived Harlemite Bill Clinton for mayor.

As the rescheduled primary approached, more serious voices called for New Yorkers to add the name of Giuliani to their ballot papers - a practice legally recognised in the city - and demand that he stay on as their mayor, term limits be damned.

'He's wonderful'

One woman coming out of a West 53rd Street polling station on Tuesday evening admitted she had done just that.

The Tourist and the Tough Guy - The New Yorker in 1999 on the senate battle
"I think he's wonderful! No one compares to this guy! This is an unusual situation and I wouldn't be surprised if the term rules get changed along with a lot of other laws."

Neal Rosenstein of the non-partisan New York Public Interest Research Group says in his 15 years monitoring elections the group has never received more calls from voters requesting advice on how to make a "write-in" vote.

"Around 10 to 15% of callers have asked about the procedure. Many voters say they received no help from election workers or were actually dissuaded from trying to add a candidate."

At the best of times, New York's antiquated voting machines contribute to one of the nation's highest rates of uncounted ballot papers - in the last presidential election, the city boasted more lost votes than the disputed state of Florida.

A significant write-in for Giuliani could tax the contraptions, whose design dates back to Thomas Edison and manufacture to the era of the Beatles, to the limit - but it wouldn't put him back in office come 1 January 2002.

New Yorkers have twice voted to ensure mayoral incumbents serve only two consecutive terms. Another referendum or an order by city and state lawmakers would be required to overturn this rule.

"Many groups such as mine have urged Mr Giuliani not to circumvent the term limits. If he has called on the city to get back to business as usual, then so should our election process. This is a land of laws, not men. It is wrong to tamper with the electoral rules," says Mr Rosenstein.

Just being there

Mayor Giuliani seems to have heeded such words despite calls from several newspapers for him to fight on. The day before the primary, he told voters to pick from the candidates already printed on the ballot slips.

The mayor and New York Yankees manager Joe Torre embrace
The mayor, who dropped out from battling Hillary Clinton for a US Senate seat last year, may well have been tempted to launch an eleventh-hour bid to stay in City Hall though.

In the days since 11 September, his motorcade has been cheered as it has passed from "ground zero" to the memorial services and funerals of as many rescue workers as his schedule will allow.

At the televised daily briefings, Mr Giuliani - often wearing the cap of a firefighter or police officer - has come across as caring, generous, informal and frank. They are qualities few viewers are used to seeing in a politician.

As Mr Giuliani has articulated the national hope that a "miracle" may deliver a survivor from the wrecked WTC, his approval rating has soared into the 90s.

"He's done a wonderful, wonderful job," says another New York voter. "I don't approve of term limits, but I don't condone a change now just because of the tragedy and the fact that it's allowed the mayor to show his best side."

Despite a softening of their image in recent weeks, New Yorkers are still a tough audience to play. A pensioner fresh from the voting station dismisses any talk of a third term.

"I think he's doing his job now. He shouldn't be getting extra plaudits for his performance. He's doing the job he's supposed to do, period."

See also:

26 Sep 01 | Americas
Bloomberg wins NYC Republican race
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