WITH only a few more days to go before the Nov. 7 election, New York City's mayoral candidates are reaching for every vote they can get. In the process, each is turning up the heat on the other. It is a particularly important election for New Yorkers, and the turnout is expected to be a high 60 percent of the city's registered voters. If City Hall is awarded to Democratic frontrunner David Dinkins, New Yorkers will have their first black mayor. If Republican-Liberal candidate Rudolph Giuliani wins, he will be the first Republican to hold the office in the more than two decades since John Lindsay was elected. Either way the city, in which Mayor Ed Koch is out of the running and finishing his third term, will embark on a new course with a new leader.
With less than a week to go before the election, the two candidates have agreed to face each other in at least two televised appearances.
The appearances, one of which is billed as a debate, were announced this week and include a third, lesser-known candidate - Right-to-Life candidate Henry Hewes - whose participation Mr. Dinkins had insisted upon.
While the candidates were negotiating on other possible joint appearances, a poll of registered voters published in New York Newsday yesterday showed Dinkins leading Mr. Giuliani by 11 points - 49 to 38 percent.
Another poll showed Dinkins favored by 47 to 34 percent. The survey was released by Barry Feinstein, Teamsters Local 237 president and a strong Dinkins backer.
Among Democratic voters in the primary, Dinkins won most of the black vote, half the Hispanic vote, and 30 percent of the white vote.
He often says he believes in the basic fairness of New York City's voters. However, he is not widely supported by many who voted for Mayor Koch in the primary, and he has recently lost some support among Jewish voters. His friendship with Jesse Jackson, who once referred to New York City as ``Hymietown,'' may be a factor. So perhaps, too, was the acknowledged mistake by Dinkins' campaign manager Bill Lynch in hiring Sonny Carson to help get out the primary vote in Brooklyn housing projects. He was hired before campaign staffers fully realized that Mr. Carson had been convicted of kidnapping and had made a number of anti-white and anti-Semitic remarks.
Dinkins' standing has also been hurt by recent disclosures about his financial dealings, which include the transfer sale of stock to his son at a price far less than the company chief estimated the stock was worth a few years earlier.
That incident also triggered revived interest in Dinkins's failure to pay income taxes over a four-year period 20 years ago. He later paid in full, including penalties. ``It was an issue of procrastination,'' says Dinkins press secretary David Fishlow. ``It was illegal, wrong, and stupid. David doesn't try to excuse it.''
Both candidates are stumping hard in these last days of the campaign for every vote they can get. Dinkins made a half dozen stops in various Jewish neighborhoods on one recent day. Press conferences in which local rabbis announced their support for one candidate or the other have been an almost daily occurrence.
Registered Democrats outnumber Republicans five to one in New York City.
Giuliani, a former Kennedy Democrat, stresses the need for nonpartisan reform government. He says he would appoint Dinkins supporters and other Democrats to his administration in the best tradition of Fiorello LaGuardia and his celebrated ``fusion'' government.
Crime, drugs, and the city's projected $1 billion-plus deficit in the next fiscal year are the campaign's most-talked-about issues. The candidates' positions on the first two are markedly similar - more police, tougher penalties for drug dealers, availability of more treatment and better drug education, and drug-free zones around schools.
On the third issue, neither candidate favors a tax hike. Giuliani talks of earning revenue by selling the property seized from convicted drug dealers. Dinkins, who says other such savings can be found if recommendations from a recent private sector report to Mayor Koch are followed, suggests a 1 percent across-the-board cut in city spending. Giuliani says that would yield a mere $100 million.
Giuliani casts himself as the tough-minded prosecutor bent on routing corruption from every corner of city government. In the process of stressing his own virtues, he does not hesitate to single out what he sees as his opponent's shortcomings.
Giuliani's media adviser is Roger Ailes, the man considered responsible for most of President Bush's negative ads and campaign tactics and the man the Dinkins camp suspects is responsible for most of the damaging information leaked about their candidate.
Giuliani notes at almost every campaign stop that Dinkins is a ``clubhouse'' politician who will continue and is proud of the patronage system. He suggests often that Dinkins is indecisive and lacks management ability. As he put it to a group of journalism students at Columbia University this week: ``We can't afford weakness, lack of candor, lack of ethics ... You will see more real progress under me.''
Dinkins is a lawyer, former Marine, and currently Manhattan Borough president. Soft-spoken but articulate, he casts himself as the man best able to defuse tensions among diverse New Yorkers and bring them together. He is less personal in his criticism of Giuliani, attacking him on issues rather than on character. Like Giuliani's Conservative Party opponent Ron Lauder in the primary, Dinkins accuses Giuliani of too often changing his mind on issues such as abortion. One Dinkins ad refers to the ``two'' Giulianis.
Though Giuliani suggests his opponent is not tough enough to stand up to the municipal unions who support him, Dinkins insists he will not ``give away the store'' in upcoming contract negotiations.
``He believes the unions trust him to be fair and will cooperate with him,'' Mr. Fishlow says.
Giuliani's handicaps, which carry over from the primary campaign, include a widespread impression of him among voters as seeing every problem in terms of corruption. When asked about New York's traffic problems, he is likely to focus on crime in the subways.
Some voters think he lacks compassion. After he spoke this week to a New York arts coalition above a Broadway restaurant, theatrical producer Joseph Papp observed during the question period that he didn't feel ``comfortable'' with Giuliani.
``Maybe I don't convey as much niceness as Dinkins does,'' said Giuliani with a smile, ``but I'm really a very normal decent person.''