Well, we know what really happened in New York's mayoral race. Here's what was happening in a corner of New York.... (No link because I wrote it, and not for a newspaper.)
The chant, repeated and embellished, filled St. Nicholas Avenue and 181st Street in Washington Heights .
"We want Freddy!".
"Cuando?" a deep baritone intoned through a bullhorn.
Storekeepers and customers peered out their windows to wave at the candidate, even when not urged by the bass voice crying out: "Ferrer aqui! Ferrer acqui!"
A grandmother dropped her grandchild's hand and ran into the middle of the street, braving a near-miss with the M4 bus to hug the slight, white-shirted candidate.
Copies of The Ferrer Express, handed out at every corner: an alternative, perhaps, to all those newspapers that muttered all week what the New York Post finally screamed: IT'S OVER.
Welcome to Planet Ferrer, where victory is imminent for the longtime Democratic underdog.
Fernando Ferrer spent Election Day entirely among supporters, in his home districts in Upper Manhattan and the Bronx, where he was treated like the celebrity he is. All around him, Democratic candidates new and old put themselves quietly on display for Ferrer, while they lined up their chips for the next round of the game.
At his campaign breakfast at La Nueva Caridad, a Washington Heights diner, Ferrer was relaxed, un-anxious. He showed off his little grandsons, Jalen and Brendan. He looked, not just like the winner, but already the mayor. Those polls that had Mayor Bloomberg leading by over 30 percent – they didn't exist.
"The only polls that count are happening right now," said volunteer Jeannette Acosta, 32, a Kingsbridge resident and student at Monroe College.
"I talk to my friends, and Democrats that I know – and they are all like,'Nobody talked to me'. The people that are voting weren't polled."
Acosta, a mother of two, said she became interested in Ferrer after she became sick of Mayor Bloomberg's claims on education. "I spent $200 on school supplies last month," she said, "including napkins, so they can go to the bathroom. Including soap, so they can wash their hands."
In Ferrer, Acosta saw a chance for a new start – and something more.
"We will make history today. We will elect the first Latino mayor of New York," said Acosta with a heartfelt smile. The sentiment seemed less a party line than a steadfastly maintained article of faith, spoken by nearly everyone willing to comment for this story.
At the breakfast, Ferrer and Luis Moranda, co-chair of the campaign, held court with most of Upper Manhattan 's Democratic power structure. Though former Manhattan Borough President Virginia Fields was the official guest; by the time it broke up, respects had been paid by City Councilman Miguel Martinez, Assembly members Eric Schneiderman and Robert Jackson, and even Carol Bellamy, former borough president and head of UNICEF. All the talk was of victory; Ferrer's wife, Araminta, commented to Fields that "when people see Freddy, they wake up!"'
The loyal volunteers agreed; the shock troops of Planet Ferrer were ready to march. Including Kenny Agosto, the man with the bullhorn.
Agosto, 35, is a Bronx native who's worked on three previous Ferrer campaigns. "You might call me a Ferrerista," he said, laughing. Then he turned and waved his volunteers to the sidewalk.
"To Fort Washington!" he cried, as if the general for which the street was named.
St. Nicholas Avenue, an already busy shopping street, now swelled again with volunteers waving blue Ferrer signs, campaign operatives in uneasy pinstripes, and Ferrer's wife, daughter and son-in-law, as well as his bouncy grandson taking turns on the bullhorn.
Once the group had taken its pre-victory parade up the hill at 181st Street to Fort Washington , they took themselves into vans and cars and went across the bridge to the Bronx, to Ferrer's original home base at Jerome Avenue and Fordham Road.
Here, the crowds were thicker and the event more overlaid with local officials. Here, the Spanish chants developed more beats, and a line emerged that would continue throughout the day, in reference to Bloomberg's millions.
"Los votos no se venden!" Our votes are not for sale.
At noon the media presence tripled. Univision competed with RNN, and the pinstriped campaign staff tried to flatten themselves out of sight of the shouting volunteers. Planet Ferrer is not about pinstripes, on the surface.
A more appropriate image was presented by Victor Thompson, a long-time activist with the Service Employees International Union, with his cold-hardened skin, his baseball cap, his 25-year track record as an organizer.
"I worked on the Kerry campaign, and for Dinkins," he said.
Asked if he thought Ferrer could win, he said, "If I didn't, I wouldn't be here."
Planet Ferrer, it seems, is as much about party loyalty as about the injustices its inhabitants want to address. As evidenced by the arrival of the next special guest: Rev. Al Sharpton, who seemed a bit disoriented by the sheer volume of pure Spanish with which he was surrounded when he got out of his van.
It wasn't until the group marched east on Fordham, to Creston Avenue, that Sharpton made some semblance of an actual speech. "Mayor Bloomberg will see even his $100 million couldn't buy our votes," he started, going on to his usual talking points about the West Side stadium and affordable housing.
The campaign's last official stop, as the sun set, was in Parkchester, in the southeast Bronx, yet another home base for Ferrer. And there was yet another set of local and state politicians, all standing in a line to shake the hands of commuters, like a receiving line at a wedding. Kenny Agosto's bullhorn voice was hoarse as he bellowed to the growing crowd: "Make room!"
This time, the lineup featured Comptroller William Thompson, who's often spoken of as a potential Democratic nominee should Ferrer lose. Now, he grinned when commuters approached him instead of the candidate. "I'm not Freddy!" he kept saying, over and over. The subtext to Planet Ferrer, then, may be a Democratic organization pulling together, and preparing for the next step.
The volunteers kept saying "It's looking good!" And the supporters who turned up, though less certain, still refused to believe it was a lost cause. A Queens police officer facing retirement said simply: "If he wins, the last five years of my career will be hell."
The officer asked his name not be used, because "I'd be talking against my boss, right? I work for the Mayor." Like most of the inhabitants of Planet Ferrer, he thought the city had been too often run for the glory of Bloomberg. "That stadium project – like he thought it would be his legacy or something,"
He sighed. "Do the math. $200 million of his personal fortune into this campaign, if you count all those charitable contributions – and he won't even feel it. Yeah, I feel more like Freddy's my kind of people."
As the meet and greet wore down, the manager of the station's convenience store, Rose Bengal, quietly offered a whisper from the reality-based community. Asked if he had met the candidate, he said "Yes." Did he support him? "No." Did he vote? "Yes."
Then he turned away, went back to selling lottery tickets and Coca-Cola, and let the Democratic procession continue unchecked outside his door.