NEW YORK - New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who has won worldwide praise for his leadership after the attack on the World Trade Center, dropped hints yesterday that he might sanction a write-in campaign - a move that would further roil the city's chaotic election picture.
Term limits bar Giuliani from serving a third stint in the mayor's office. Six candidates are vying in today's primary for a chance to succeed him.
But a groundswell is building to keep Giuliani in office, and the mayor has not discouraged published speculation that he and his aides are exploring ways for him to seek re-election.
A week ago, the mayor dismissed talk of his staying in office, saying he expected to leave City Hall when his term ends Jan. 1.
But his comments yesterday appeared to leave open the possibility.
"I have not had time to think about it," he said. "It is a very important decision, and I need time to talk to people about it."
Although Giuliani discouraged voters from writing in his name on their ballots today, he did note that any plans to have him run "would not involve the primary, anyway." More likely, the mayor might consider a write-in campaign in the general election Nov. 6, according to a longtime local political observer.
Many New Yorkers, it seems, would relish the prospect. Giuliani is often greeted by cries of "four more years" as he travels the city, and "Giuliani for mayor" posters are springing up throughout New York. Several newspapers, including the New York Post, the Daily News and the Wall Street Journal, have called for him to remain in office.
"He should be given a chance to run for another term," said former Mayor Edward I. Koch, a Giuliani critic who indicated that he would vote to re-elect the mayor. "New York City will be facing an economic catastrophe, people are contemplating moving out and there has to be a restoration of normalcy. We need continuing leadership; we don't have time to waste."
But the legal barriers to a third term for Giuliani might prove insurmountable. Although New York Gov. George Pataki said he would write in Giuliani's name if he were voting (Pataki is not a city resident), the Republican governor would need the approval of the state Legislature to suspend New York's term-limits law. So far, Democratic Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Republican Senate leader Joseph Bruno have opposed such an action.
In an interview yesterday with radio station WROW-AM in Albany, the capital, Bruno said "it would be unfair" for Giuliani to intervene so late in the election cycle. Silver, noting that New Yorkers have twice voted to uphold the term-limits law, said suspending it would be "opposing the will of the people."
The law also could be nullified by a vote of the city council, and then by voters. But council officials oppose such a move.