David N. Dinkins Hillary Rodham ClintonMayor David N. Dinkins campaigned with Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and Representative Charles B. Rangel at Benedict College in Columbia, S.C., on Jan. 25. (Photo: Todd Heisler for The New York Times)
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On rare occasions, David N. Dinkins says, he is approached by New Yorkers who ask him how he could possibly support Hillary Rodham Clinton in her quest to become president rather than Barack Obama.

“In fact, every now and then, a black person will ask me that,” said Mr. Dinkins, who was elected New York City’s first black mayor in 1989. “They wonder how I can be in support of a white woman running against this black man. And, sometimes, a white person will come to me and somehow make the assumption that I’m with Obama.”

Mr. Dinkins, who served from 1990 through 1993, is running to be a delegate for Senator Clinton. He said he periodically laments how the race for the Democratic nomination has been viewed by some voters purely through the prism of race and gender. Nonetheless, he said, his enthusiastic support for Ms. Clinton should be surprising to no one.

“It starts with friendship and loyalty,” Mr. Dinkins said. “The Clintons helped me and they have been supportive of me. She has been an outstanding United States senator. To be honest, I don’t know Obama. I’ve met him just once, when he made that great speech at the convention. He is a bright young man. I’m not against him — I’m for Hillary.”

In particular, Mr. Dinkins said, he has been impressed with her performance as a senator. “She didn’t come with an attitude of being the former first lady,” he said. “She came into the Senate with the perspective that she was one of 100 senators and she did everything but fetch coffee for the Republican senators. She did the hard work and learned how to do the job well.”

Nonetheless, against the backdrop of Senator Obama’s historic campaign to become the nation’s first black president, Mr. Dinkins said he is occasionally questioned by black New Yorkers about his decision.

“Some will question my bona fides in blackness,” Mr. Dinkins said. “And I point out that I supported Jesse Jackson in 1984 and that there were very few people for him at that time. In 1988, I was a co-chair of his campaign.”

Mr. Dinkins added: “My record is clear. And every now and then, I ask them, ‘Where were you in 1988 when I was supporting Jesse Jackson?’ Then I explain that it’s not a racial thing or a gender thing with me. I just happen to think that the lady is very smart, very good and will make a heck of a president.”

As a former mayor and highly recognized New York City politician, Mr. Dinkins is just one of a large number of prominent New York officials and former officials who are seeking to be Clinton delegates. It is a group that includes members of the Assembly, State Senate and City Council, as well as union leaders and borough presidents.

Since leaving Gracie Mansion, Mr. Dinkins has remained politically active, principally by endorsing various candidates in local, citywide and statewide races. Since leaving office, he has also worked as a professor at Columbia University and a radio host.

Most of the state’s Democratic establishment is supporting Mrs. Clinton over Mr. Obama. Among the many Democrat office-holders running on Mrs. Clinton’s delegate slates in Tuesday’s primary are:

  • United States Representative José E. Serrano of the Bronx.
  • Assemblywoman Deborah J. Glick of Manhattan.
  • Assemblymen Jonathan L. Bing, Adriano Espaillat and Keith L. T. Wright of Manhattan.
  • Assemblywomen Barbara M. Clark, Aurelia Greene, Audrey I. Pheffer and Catherine T. Nolan of Queens.
  • Assemblywoman Annette M. Robinson of Brooklyn.
  • Assemblyman Michael N. Gianaris of Queens.
  • Assemblymen Jeffrey Dinowitz and Carl Heastie of the Bronx.
  • Assemblywoman Naomi Rivera of the Bronx.
  • Assemblymen Peter J. Abbate, N. Nick Perry and Darryl Towns of Brooklyn.
  • State Senator Diane J. Savino of Brooklyn and Staten Island.
  • State Senator Martin Malave Dilan of Brooklyn.
  • State Senator Liz Krueger of Manhattan.
  • State Senator Ruth Hassell-Thompson of the Bronx.
  • City Councilman Bill de Blasio of Brooklyn.
  • City Councilmen Hiram Monserrate and Thomas White Jr. of Queens.
  • City Councilwoman Melinda Katz of Queens.
  • City Councilwomen Inez Dickens and Melissa Mark-Viverito of Manhattan.
  • City Councilman Miguel Martinez of Manhattan.
  • City Councilwoman Maria del Carmen Arroyo of the Bronx.
  • City Councilman Joel Rivera of the Bronx.
  • Helen M. Marshall, the Queens borough president.
  • Scott M. Stringer, the Manhattan borough president.

Other delegate candidates for Mrs. Clinton include John Gulino, the Staten Island Democratic chairman; Mayor Byron W. Brown of Buffalo; and Lillian Roberts, executive director of District Council 37, the city’s largest public workers’ union.

Read more Primary Journal blog entries from the New York region.

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