Who’s running for mayor? Depends who you ask

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Mayoral candidates in Harlem. (Azi Paybarah)
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On Thursday night, the Daily News hosted the first of three forums featuring the candidates running for mayor. Most of them anyway.

The event included four Democrats and two Republicans, much to the chagrin of at least one Democrat and three other Republicans who have declared their own intentions to run for mayor.

As the campaigns officially get underway, with a surprisingly crowded field on both sides of the aisle, debate organizers and pollsters are facing the difficult task of determining just how many candidates are legitimately in the race.

When former governor Eliot Spitzer and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer were asked about the Democratic primary for New York City mayor recently, they each referred to the contest as a three-person race.

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When Quinnipiac University conducted their latest poll about the mayor's race, they asked voters about four Democratic candidates. Former City Councilman Sal Albanese, who had declared his candidacy earlier, was not included.

When Al Sharpton hosted the first Democratic mayoral forum at the National Action Network headquarters, there were five candidates assembled on the stage. Albanese was included in that group, but Adolfo Carrion, who previously served as Bronx borough president and the White House director of Urban Affairs, was not.

The newly launched DecideNYC web site, which seeks to track candidates running for various offices in this year's races, also lists five Democrats as running for mayor. (They list NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly as a possible candidate, without attaching a party to his name.)

WNYC public radio's "Mayoral Tracker" includes nine total candidates: Carrion is in, but Albanese is not. Among them are George McDonald, the founder of the Doe Fund, and John Catsimatidis, a Republican billionaire who already has the support of a couple county chairmen. 

Neither McDonald nor Catsmatidis were included in the Daily News forum, though it did include local publisher Tom Allon.

The process has already provoked some controversy. The Independence Party, which is supportive of Carrion's bid, sent out a statement saying the News was disenfranchising independent voters.

I asked a spokesman for the Daily News, Ken Frydman, how they decided who to invite.

"We extended invitations based on who were the major, declared or most publicly active candidates," Frydan told me. "We will make similar judgments for the next two forums."

The official list isn't much help. The New York City Campaign Finance Board web site currently lists 12 candidates, including Anthony Weiner, the former congressman who is still spending money from his citywide campaign account on office space and phone lines. It doesn't include Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, who was included in the News forum, and is expected to formally enter the race tomorrow.

A New York Observer slide show of mayoral candidates listed 17 candidates, including Mark Gallogly, a hedge fund manager whose name was included in a recent telephone poll, and A.R. Bernard, an influential pastor in Brooklyn with the city's largest congregation, who is also a registered Republican.

They also reserved a space for a "mystery" candidate, some unknown person who may enter at a later date. Because you never know.