JOHN LINDSAY TOLD an outright lie last Wednesday after announcing to a city hall press conference that he would not be a candidate for re-election as mayor of New York City.
Lindsay told the assembled scribes that he had no doubt that he could win re-election in Gotham. Actually, his low standing in the polls and his lack of favor among the city's reform and regular Democratic leaders caused him to pass up a bid for a third term.
After his disastrous and abortive race for the Democratic presidential nomination last spring, Lindsay came back to New York and tried to forge an alliance with the five democratic county leaders. Hoping to get the party chieftains in his corner, the mayor began funneling patronage to the regular Democratic organization. However, the leaders, notably Meade Esposito of Brooklyn and Matt Troy of Queens, balked at backing the Mayor because of his unpopularity with the voters.
A few weeks ago, Lindsay went out and tested the water in the boroughs by going in front of various civic groups on quasi-political missions. From all reports, the soundings were not too good.
The city's reform Democrats, who provided much of the support for Lindsay's successful campaign for re-election in 1969, have come to view the Mayor as an anathema. Besides the fact that his popularity has hit an all-time low with the people, the reformers feel that "Long John" sold them out after 1969 when he failed to join and support their faction of the party.
Thus Lindsay's decision was based on the practical realization that there was no way he could win re-election. The only people who were willing to support the Mayor was the Liberal Party, which had backed him four years ago. However, the only way Lindsay could win on their slate would be to build strong popular support, something he seems incapable of doing now. A poll commissioned by City Comptroller Abraham Beame shows Lindsay with only 12 per cent of the vote, in a hypothetical race with Beame and Republican State Senator John Marchi.
LINDSAY'S DECISION also has tremendous political advantages for Fun City's mayor. For one thing, by removing himself from the race, Lindsay will not be subject to constant battering in the Democratic Mayoral primary and the subsequent general election. As one candidate said last week: "Now we are going to have to run against ourselves and not Lindsay's record."
By getting out of the dogfight, Lindsay will be able to concentrate on his other ambitions: getting himself elected governor or senator in 1974 for starters. Since the Democratic primary for both offices is in June 1974, Lindsay will only be out of office six months before running in another election. He will be able to travel around the state during this period free from charges that he is deserting the city to seek higher office.
While Lindsay's major interest in politics has always been in foreign affairs, his intense hatred for Nelson Rockefeller might draw him into the race for governor. Rockefeller and Lindsay have been at each other's throats since the middle of the mayor's first term and 1974 might be a good time to settle their feud for good.