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Democrats in N.Y. make final pitch for votes

NEW YORK -- The four Democrats vying for the chance to face Mayor Michael Bloomberg in November spent their final hours before today's primary shaking hands at subway stations and senior centers, hoping to make an impression that will translate into votes.

It has been an exhausting journey. Throughout the campaign, they have had to contend with Bloomberg's swelling approval rates, and his bottomless supply of cash -- the billionaire is spending his own money to get reelected.

And recently, just getting anyone's attention is hard enough. Most New York City voters don't start tuning in to primary campaigns until after Labor Day, but this year, coverage of Hurricane Katrina squeezed stories about the race off front pages and gave them less time on news broadcasts.

The final weekend before the primary -- traditionally prime stumping time -- also happened to be the fourth anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Not only did it steal more headlines, but the candidates had to tread carefully, not wanting to appear insensitive by turning it into a political event.

Gifford Miller, Anthony Weiner, and C. Virginia Fields attended memorial remembrances, but Fernando Ferrer had lunch and a photo-op with the Rev. Al Sharpton, who has endorsed him.

A poll by the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute released yesterday indicated that Anthony Weiner in second place with 25 percent to Ferrer, who has 32 percent.

Thirteen percent of likely Democratic voters in the survey were undecided. The winner needs 40 percent to avoid a runoff in two weeks.

''After the pundits, the pollsters, the press . . . it is appropriately in the hands of the people, so let them decide," Ferrer said on a radio program yesterday.

The candidates mostly avoided attacking each other throughout the campaign.

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