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Action is the thing to do

With something one might expect from the New York Post, the New York Times' Patrick Healy led Friday's coverage of Fields-gate with a puff-piece that has Fields' many victims laughing or gagging.

With phrases like "polite, pleasant woman" or "too nice to do the job," you start to wonder who bought Kool-Aid on 43rd Street.

But with "her brand of leadership lies in being consultative and inclusive," one looks for the 'advertisement' label at the top.

Healy also got it wrong stating the Fields campaign had relabeled the photo of her with NYC firefighters.

The New York Sun's Jill Gardiner reports that the Fields campaign was planning internal changes, but spends more time profiling the Mayor of Birmingham, Alabama, where Fields planned to attend a fundraiser.

For both articles, click below.

After Gaffes, Fields Faces Questions on Toughness
New York Times
July 8, 2005

The question has long dogged her candidacy: Is C. Virginia Fields tough enough to be mayor of New York?

Ever since this polite, pleasant woman joined the Democratic mayoral field last winter, the political and chattering classes have wondered whether she was too nice to do the job. Now, as Ms. Fields prepares to shake up her campaign after a week spent on the defensive, some are wondering how far she will go as she seeks to protect her political future.

Several of her advisers are still reeling from the campaign's decision to use a composite photograph on a recent flier, which made it look as if Ms. Fields, who is black, were being cheered by black, Hispanic, Asian and white supporters. The candidate acknowledged on Wednesday that the photo was doctored and blamed the firm that produced the flier, but the finger-pointing has not stopped there.

Ms. Fields thought campaign advisers erred in allowing a misleading photo to be used, said a spokeswoman, Kirsten Powers. "There will be a restructuring of the campaign, and changes will be made," Ms. Fields said.

How tenaciously she will undertake the restructuring or whether it will be cosmetic is hard to predict, advisers and supporters said. Speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk about the matter, several advisers blamed the controversy in part on her chief consultant, Joseph C. Mercurio, who oversees campaign material and initially defended the doctored photo. But Mr. Mercurio is a respected strategist who has been with Ms. Fields from the start of the campaign, and aides said she did not want to go overboard in reacting to the controversy.

In her nearly eight years as Manhattan borough president, it has not been Ms. Fields's style to lead with an iron fist (a la Giuliani) or a technocratic eye (a la Bloomberg). Instead, her brand of leadership lies in being consultative and inclusive, although she says she is steely and decisive when the moment demands both.

"She's not a micromanager, she's a consensus builder, and that can have good and bad points for a leader," said the Rev. Al Sharpton, who talks to Ms. Fields regularly but has not yet endorsed a mayoral candidate. "The good is that everyone can feel included, but the bad side is that she can take advice from so many people, and think it all over, she can be left looking indecisive or uncertain."

Yesterday, The New York Times reported that the Fields campaign used a photo of her with city firefighters in a political brochure, which fire officials said was contrary to their rules. As a result, the photo was relabeled on her campaign Web site to note that she had visited the firefighters in her capacity as borough president, and also noted that rival campaigns had photos of candidates with firefighters on their Web sites.

Within the Fields camp, the latest flare-up was not considered fatal, and polls regularly show her running second in the Democratic field of four. Yet advisers worried about what the flaps would say of the maturity and discipline of a campaign that is already spending its relatively scarce money heavily for the Sept. 13 primary without gaining much ground in the polls.

Ms. Fields said yesterday that her disavowal of the doctored photograph, and the coming changes in her campaign, would show her mettle as a leader.

"I think that when mistakes are made and missteps are taken, action is the thing to do," Ms. Fields said yesterday during a taped appearance on NY1 News that was to air last night. "Voters understand that in any campaign, as well as in any administration, mistakes can be made, missteps will be taken, etc. So I don't think in any way that reflects my accomplishments, my experience, my vision for the city."

Two senior advisers to Ms. Fields were harsher. It was "a lazy mistake inside the campaign," one of the advisers said. The second added, "Corners were cut to present an idealized political image." They laid the fault to Mr. Mercurio, who, as the senior consultant, has played the primary role in planning and approving campaign material.

It was unclear yesterday whether Mr. Mercurio would be affected in Ms. Fields's restructuring, though the two advisers said his status would change.

"Within the campaign, a lot of people feel Joe needs to be held responsible," the first senior adviser said. This adviser also noted that Ms. Fields had to apologize last month after Mr. Mercurio made an insulting remark about Geraldine Ferraro, the former New York congresswoman and vice presidential candidate, after she endorsed a Fields rival.

Other Fields supporters were less concerned yesterday. "Joe gives very sound advice, but Virginia also has no problem knocking heads if she needs people to straighten up," said Percy Sutton, the Harlem political leader who has endorsed Ms. Fields.

Mr. Mercurio said yesterday that his role would not be changing, noting that he ran the media issues meeting yesterday as usual. At the same time, he noted, duties can shift in a campaign as it adds more people: He and Ms. Fields brought in a campaign manager, Chung C. Seto, about six weeks ago.

Ms. Seto and Ms. Powers, the spokeswoman, are expected to remain in their positions through any restructuring. Less clear, political analysts said, is whether Ms. Fields and her team will make the right judgment calls when the tougher scrutiny and competition comes in August as the Sept. 13 primary approaches.

"The attention that comes to a New York mayoral campaign is intense, and this is the first big one for Fields and Mercurio," said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University poll. "One measure of them is how they handle the screw-ups like this. We'll see."

The New York Sun
July 8, 2005
Fields Campaign To Answer Crisis With `Internal Changes'
by Jill Gardiner

After a week of controversy over a doctored photograph used in one of her recent mailings, the mayoral candidate C. Virginia Fields said there would be "internal changes" in her campaign.

During a telephone interview last night about a fund-raising trip she has scheduled to her hometown of Birmingham, Ala., today, Ms. Fields, borough president of Manhattan, said the decisions about those changes had already been made.

She would not elaborate or say whether anyone on her staff would be fired, and her top campaign consultant, Joseph Mercurio, declined to comment.

It is not uncommon for candidates to switch top campaign aides after a public-relations crisis. One of the other three Democratic mayoral candidates, Fernando Ferrer, shook up his campaign staff earlier this year.

In Ms. Fields's hometown, the mayor, Bernard Kincaid, planned a reception for her at the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute. Fund-raising cannot be done at the institute, but Mr. Kincaid said he was hoping to raise $25,000 for Ms. Fields during her visit.

The mayor of Birmingham, which with a population of more than 240,000 is Alabama's largest city, and the New York City mayoral candidate do not know one another but share a friend, Deborah Hill, a member of the City Council in Warrensville Heights, Ohio. Mr. Kincaid grew up with her and Ms. Fields was her college roommate.

"She mentioned to me that C. Virginia Fields was from Birmingham and was quote-unquote my home girl," Mr. Kincaid told The New York Sun.

He said it was an "honor" to support a Birmingham native like Ms. Fields, who has risen through the political ranks.

For her part, Ms. Fields, youngest daughter of a steelworker and a seamstress, said she was "very appreciative" that Mr. Kincaid agreed to hold the event and was looking forward to spending time with members of the Birmingham, Ala., community and the business leaders scheduled to attend this afternoon's reception.

Ms. Fields's career of activism started in that city, when in 1963 she marched in the civil-rights movement with the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. and was arrested and jailed for six nights.

The fund-raising event is not her first outside the five boroughs. In late March, Ms. Fields had one in Atlanta, and she she said yesterday that she has another event planned in Boston.

Ms. Fields, who has raised roughly $1.4 million for her campaign, and the other candidates have until Monday to
raise money that will be declared before the next filing deadline.

Donations from residents who do not live in the city are not eligible for public matching dollars.

Mr. Kincaid said that in his first campaign for mayor in 1999, he raised $130,000 and beat a candidate who had raised $1.3 million.

Mr. Kincaid said he was not aware of this week's controversy involving the campaign photo.

Ms. Fields said again yesterday, as she did earlier this week, that the photo would no longer be used. The picture, which featured her at a news conference in the middle of an ethnically diverse group, was patched together electronically from several different images.