Political verdict on Ferraro: down but not out
Political observers in New York State say it is too early to judge how Geraldine A. Ferraro's political future will be effected by the indictment and guilty plea of her husband, John P. Zaccaro, on charges of real estate fraud. Reaction tended to lie along partisan lines, but no one will predict whether or not Ms. Ferraro, who gave up her congressional seat to run for the Democratic vice-presidency last year, will run for the seat of US Sen. Alphonse M. D'Amato (R) of New York.
Edward Lurie, executive director of the state Republican Party, says the indictment and subsequent guilty plea by Mr. Zaccaro ``hurts Ferraro.'' But he adds that she may be able to rise above it. ``She was the first female vice-presidential candidate,'' he says, pointing out that this historic connection may cause people to overlook the negative.
Actually, says Lurie, many Ferraro supporters want special treatment for her. ``Look at Thomas Eagleton, Spiro Agnew, and Nelson Rockefeller,'' he says, referring to previous potential vice-presidents. ``The scrutiny of them was just as intense.''
Noreen Connell, president of the New York state chapter of the National Organization for Women, maintains that there is a political future for Ferraro. ``Remember, she is not being indicted,'' says Ms. Connell, who has watched Ferraro as a state politician for many years. She says there has been too much focus on Ferraro's tax problems and her ``charisma,'' and not enough on her role as a political leader.
``[In New York] we see her as a pragmatic congresswoman,'' says Connell. She does admit that some voters have mixed feelings about the financial questions that have plagued Ferraro, but she says many admire the former congresswoman's toughness.
Ronnie Eldridge, director of the Women's Division of the State of New York, says it is too early to tell what effect her husband's indictment and guilty plea will have on Ferraro's future.
On Monday, Ferraro issued a brief statement after her husband's arraignment. ``Today's events bring to an end the difficult period my husband has endured stemming from my historic candidacy,'' she said. ``From what I have learned about the matter that was the subject of the district attorney's investigation, John tried to help a client and in doing so committed judgmental error. He has freely admitted his mistake, and for this I am proud of him.''
Sidewalk interviews here produced mixed reactions. One woman, who said she voted for Ronald Reagan, said that since Ferraro had been a partner in her husband's business she was not fit for elective office.
A man who said he supported the Mondale-Ferraro ticket saw the indictment of Zaccaro as a product of ``peer and press pressure.'' He said he did not think it would be a factor in her political future. But he said he did not think she should run against Senator D'Amato next year.
``I think she would lose, because he is a popular incumbent with experience,'' the man said.
Several names have been mentioned, in addition to Ferraro, for a run against D'Amato, including Brooklyn District Attorney Elizabeth Holtzman and US Rep. Thomas J. Downey (D) of Long Island.
Lurie says that any candidate who faces D'Amato will have a tough race. ``There has to be some reevaluation in the Ferraro camp,'' he says, including some polling in the months ahead. ``This [her husband's indictment and subsequent guilty plea] sets her back.''
D'Amato ran against Ms. Holtzman and former US Sen. Jacob K. Javits in 1980, winning the seat by only 45 percent of the vote. Holtzman, who has not said whether she will run for the seat again, had 44 percent, while Senator Javits, running on the Liberal Party ticket after losing his renomination bid to D'Amato, garnered 11 percent. Many observers said Holtzman probably would have won if Javits had not entered the race.