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Did America's mayor run a 'vicious' campaign? His opponent says yes

David Dinkins
Former New York City Mayor David Dinkins joins Rev. Al Sharpton on PoliticsNation.

Given New York City's liberal reputation, it might seem hard to believe, but it has been two decades since a Democrat held the title of Mayor in the Big Apple.

That man was David Dinkins, who was also the city's first African American mayor. Today, as the city seems poised to perhaps elect another Democratic mayor, Dinkins joined Rev. Al Sharpton to reflect on his time in office, the campaigns he ran, and how he thinks this year's race might be similar to his reelection campaign of 1993.

In his new book, Dinkins describes his 1993 opponent, Rudy Giuliani, as a formidable candidate who "went for the jugular" running what he calls a "vicious" campaign.

"Rudy was a tough customer," Dinkins told Rev. Sharpton on PoliticsNation. "He frankly is not a nice guy."

In his book, he argues that there was a racial tone to how Giuliani ran his campaign.

"[Giuliani's] underlying message was clear for all to see: The city is in terribly financial straits. Do you really want a black man presiding over it in this time of struggle?" he wrote.

"Even today, as Bill de Blasio gears up to run, at least some writers suggest that 'we’ve got to be careful, lest we return to the days of Dinkins,'" he said, referring to what he believes is an inaccurate reflection of his success in reducing crime. "Now, they write as though on December 31, 1989, when Ed Koch was mayor, there was no crime. Just the next day, January the 1, 1990, when I became mayor. The fact is, we had an awful lot of crime during Ed Koch’s period, and we saw crime go down in huge numbers while I was mayor."

Although he's proud of much of his time in office, Dinkins says one of his proudest moments came when Nelson Mandela came to visit shortly after being released from prison.

"After he got out of jail, and he might well have gone to Washington, DC, the nation’s capital, could’ve gone to Atlanta, a lot of places, but he did come to New York," he said. "And he stayed with us at Gracie Mansion."

"It was one of the proudest moments of my life, just being in his company," he said. "Every year, I send him a note on his birthday. His birthday’s in July, as is mine, and I say ‘happy birthday, Madiba. When you’re 109, I’ll be 100, and we’ll meet and have a drink.’"

When asked if he is "hopeful" during the "age of Obama," Dinkins said, "I am, although I can’t help but notice that this great man who’s done so many wonderful things, and it seems sometimes they pick on him every chance they get, and it saddens me a little."