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Mike soaks up 2 big nods

Vallones cross party line for mayor

Mayor Bloomberg ignored the rain to campaign at two Columbus Day parades yesterday, and in exchange for getting his feet wet - he picked up two powerful endorsements.

Peter Vallone Sr., the former City Council speaker, and his son, Councilman Peter Vallone Jr., chairman of the Public Safety Committee, gave Bloomberg their blessing at a preparade meeting at Mike's Diner in Astoria.

The father and son politicos, whose Democratic dynasty in Queens goes back three generations, are the latest big-name Democrats to cross party lines and endorse Bloomberg. "Government is a learning experience, and this mayor has learned extremely well. He's done an excellent job," said Vallone Sr., a failed candidate for mayor in 2001, who backed Fernando Ferrer in a runoff against former Public Advocate Mark Green.

The elder Vallone endorsed Council Speaker Gifford Miller over Ferrer in this year's Democratic primary. Yesterday, he praised the mayor for succeeding in wresting control of the city school system from the Board of Education - a feat other mayors failed to accomplish.

"God knows, for 12 years no one tried harder [to get control of the school system] than I or the three mayors I worked with," he said.

As for Ferrer, the current Democratic candidate, Vallone Sr. said, "I think he's a fine public official . . .[but] we have a good mayor - why would we change him now? It has nothing to do with party labels."

Bloomberg said he appreciated the Vallones' crossover to endorse him: "When you are a big name in politics, there can be a lot of pressure on you to toe the party line," the mayor said before moving on to Brooklyn where the local Columbus Day parade marched up 18th Ave. Other Democrats backing Bloomberg include former Mayor Ed Koch, former Gov. Hugh Carey and a former congressman, the Rev. Floyd Flake.

Christy Setzer, a spokeswoman for the Ferrer campaign - which cancelled a number of meet-and-greet events due to the rain - preferred to remember the Vallones' effusive praise for Ferrer in years past.

"We agree with what Peter Vallone Sr. said when he endorsed Freddy in 2001, that we 'can think of nobody better qualified than Freddy Ferrer' to lead New York City," said Setzer.

Yesterday's activities kicked off a weekend of the mayor courting the Italian-American vote: Bloomberg will also march in the major Columbus Day parade on Fifth Ave. tomorrow.

Originally published on October 9, 2005

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