Bill de Blasio: big win, big target for GOP in N.Y. mayor race (+video)
Bill de Blasio's 'tale of two cities' theme sets up a sharp contrast with Republican Joe Lhota – and could turn the November election into a mandate on the legacy of the Bloomberg-Giuliani years.
York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, who staked his candidacy on a fiercely anti-Bloomberg campaign based on the slogan “a tale of two cities,” won a stunning victory last night, unofficially polling more than 40 percent of city Democrats, the threshold needed to become their nominee without a runoff.Skip to next paragraph
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In just a matter of weeks, Mr. de Blasio took a campaign languishing near the bottom of the polls and propelled it into the national spotlight, trumpeting an unapologetic liberal message of taxing the wealthy to fund education, helping struggling hospitals in poor neighborhoods, and most of all, reforming the city’s police tactic of stop and frisk.
“That day we said that New York had become the tale of two cities, one where the very wealthy had not only rebounded from the great recession, but where life couldn’t get much better for them,” de Blasio said during his victory speech, referring to his campaign launch in January.
“And we acknowledged that day that there was another New York, a New York where nearly half our citizens live at or near the poverty line, where luxury condos had replaced community hospitals, where proactive policing had somehow slipped into racial profiling, where too many mothers and fathers feared that their daughters and sons would never achieve the very thing we want most for our kids – that they get the education they need to pave the way to a better life.”
It was a message that resonated with a surprising coalition of Democrats that cut across ethnic, geographical, and socioeconomic lines – and devastated his opponents. According to exit polls, de Blasio won a plurality of nearly every demographic group: men and women; Catholics, Jews, and Protestants; those with high and low levels of education; as well as all income groups in all five boroughs. He also received half of those identifying as gay or lesbian – a blow to City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who is openly gay.
The only groups not to join the de Blasio juggernaut were black men, who went for former Comptroller Bill Thompson, the lone black candidate, and “other races,” a group consisting primarily of Asian voters, who went for current city Comptroller John Liu.
By night’s end, de Blasio had 40.2 percent of the vote with 98 percent of precincts counted. Thousands of paper ballots remain to be counted, however, and these could take days to tally before the election is official. The threshold for avoiding a runoff in three weeks is 40 percent. Mr. Thompson has not conceded, either.
“It’s extraordinarily impressive – it’s a very powerful win,” says Kenneth Sherrill, professor emeritus of political science at Hunter College in New York. “He won across the board, and that’s quite a feat.”
“It’s very interesting to me, and I think it’s unexpected that identity politics appears to have disappeared from this election,” Mr. Sherrill adds. “The traditional explanations ... just aren’t holding. This is a broad victory that seems to me to be not only about issues, but also to be about the style of his leadership.”
The de Blasio win sets up a (likely) November showdown with Joe Lhota, the former head of the city’s transportation authority, who easily won the much smaller Republican primary in a city in which registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 6 to 1. Even so, the GOP line has won the last five elections, and a Democrat hasn’t won the mayor’s office since 1989.
The Republican nominee, who was also a deputy mayor in the administration of former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani (R), hit back at de Blasio in his victory speech Tuesday night.
“I hear an awful lot coming from the other side about the ‘tale of two cities’ and how they want to tear down the progress that’s happened over the last 20 years,” he said. “This ‘tale’ is nothing more than class warfare, an attempt to divide the city. It is a feeble retreat to the same old playbook that promises a perfect world, but delivers only special interest-dominated politics. It’s this kind of thinking that has historically brought our city to the brink of bankruptcy and rampant civic decay.”