A cast of mayoral candidates marched up Sixth Avenue Sunday looking to attract voters for the looming primary elections from the tens of thousands of people who that gathered on the sidelines at the New York City Dominican Day Parade.
"Hoy somos todos Domincanos (Today we are all Dominican)," city Comptroller and mayoral candidate John Liu said in Spanish as he marched, wearing a straw hat that is typical of farmers in the Dominican Republic. As he started the parade, he rushed sideliners, almost jumping the fence as they shouted in support.
Red, white, and blue colors of the Dominican flag flooded midtown as the pulsating beats of Spanish reggae and merengue gave parade goers something to dance to. Mayor Michael Bloomberg strutted at the front of the parade.
But perhaps the man moving the most was ex-congressman and mayoral candidate Anthony Weiner, who zigzagged along the parade route. Each time he stopped, he passed out hugs, handshakes or grabbed flags, which he waved as he screamed, "Que viva La Republica Dominican! (Long live the Dominican Republic)."
After a rocky start by his campaign, in which they began marching without the candidate but held back when he was late, Weiner showed up in the nick of time with his signature red pants -- ready for the cheers from the crowd. Weiner was buoyed the whole way by the favorable crowd, with not a single heckler.
"I believe in him. Everyone makes mistakes," said Francisco Olvo, 48, a Bronx resident who embraced Weiner with a hug. "Bloomberg makes a lot of mistakes, food and rent is too high."
In a city where Hispanics make up almost a third of the population and Dominicans make up the second largest Hispanic group after Puerto Ricans, landing the Dominican vote is important to the candidates.
"Dominicans are the fastest growing Latino community in New York City," said former Bronx borough president Adolfo Carrión Jr., an Independence Party candidate.
Carrion joined the sentiments of the other mayoral hopefuls, saying that the greatest need for the Dominican community is education, followed by affordable housing.
Ydanis Rodriguez, a City Councilman representing upper Manhattan, including the large Dominican community of Washington Heights, said the next mayor needs to be more in tune with the needs of Dominicans and the rest of the working class.
"The most important thing is that the new leadership has to be more connected to average New Yorkers," said Rodriguez. "He or she cannot continue to be like Mayor Bloomberg, who only listen to the 1 percent."
Also at the parade were mayoral candidates Christine Quinn, Erick Salgado and John Catsimatidis; and comptroller candidate Eliot Spitzer.
"A day like this, we are highlighting the contributions Dominicans have and are making each and every day to New York City," said Bill Thompson, former city comptroller and also a mayoral candidate.
The primaries are Sept. 10 and the general election is Nov. 5.