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Attorney Rudolph Giuliani was elected mayor of New York City in 1993, staying in office for two terms.
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During his six years as U.S. Attorney, Giuliani worked tirelessly to jail drug dealers, prosecute white-collar criminals and disrupt organized crime and government corruption. Giuliani's 4,152 convictions (against only 25 reversals) distinguish him as one of the most effective U.S. Attorneys in American history. It was also as a U.S. Attorney that Giuliani began to develop his reputation as something of a publicity seeker,
sometimes publicly handcuffing mob bosses and business leaders on trumped up charges only to quietly drop the charges later.
In 1989, Giuliani ran for mayor of New York City as a Republican against Democrat David Dinkins. He lost by a razor-thin margin in one of the closest mayoral elections in New York City history, and Dinkins became the city's first black mayor. Four years later, in 1993, Giuliani again challenged Dinkins. With more than one million New Yorkers on welfare, crime rates skyrocketing and an ever-worsening crack cocaine epidemic plaguing the city, the mild-mannered Dinkins had fallen out of favor and a tough-on-crime prosecutor appeared—to many—to be exactly what the city needed. Giuliani won the election and took office as New York City's 107th mayor on January 1, 1994.
Comparing himself to Winston Churchill leading London through The Blitz of 1940, Giuliani set out to tackle New York's problems with a single-mindedness that bordered on ruthlessness. In his first two years in office, his policies helped reduce serious crime by one-third and cut the city's murder rate in half. Police shootings fell by 40 percent and incidents of violence in city jails, once a seemingly insurmountable problem, virtually disappeared by the end of his first term, dropping by 95 percent. Giuliani's highly successful "welfare-to-work" initiative helped more than 600,000 New Yorkers land employment and achieve self-sufficiency.
Perhaps inevitably for a mayor so determined to fundamentally change the way city politics operated, Giuliani earned nearly as many enemies as admirers. Minority leaders abhorred him for his widespread reliance on racial profiling in law enforcement and liberals criticized his failure to reform the city's troubled public school system. "Civility" campaigns against jaywalking, street vendors and public funding of controversial art likewise provoked some public ire. Although he won reelection by a landslide in 1997, by 2000—as his second term was nearing its end—Giuliani's popularity had fallen off considerably. That same year was he diagnosed with prostate cancer, the disease that had killed his father, and began undergoing treatments that sapped him of his usual vigor.
However, just as Giuliani appeared to be fading into retirement, he was suddenly thrust into the international spotlight by a tragedy that shocked the world and came to define his public career. On September 11, 2001, al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked two commercial passenger airliners and crashed them into the twin towers of the World Trade Center in Manhattan.
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