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De Blasio Leads in New York Democratic Mayoral Primary

New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio
New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio told supporters last night, “What we have achieved here tonight and what we will do in the next round of this campaign won’t just change the view of how things look inside City Hall, but will change the policies that have left behind so many of our fellow New Yorkers outside of City Hall.” Photographer: Mario Tama/Getty Images

New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio won the most votes in the Democratic mayoral primary, after campaigning against the police department’s stop-and-frisk tactics and what he said were Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s policies favoring the rich.

Whether he is the outright winner or must face the second-place finisher, former city Comptroller William Thompson, in an Oct. 1 runoff won’t be known until next week, said Valerie Vazquez, a spokeswoman for the Board of Elections. The agency’s staff will collect votes from malfunctioning lever machines starting on Sept. 13 and begin counting at least 19,000 paper absentee ballots and affidavit votes on Sept. 16.

“Realistically, I don’t think we could complete it on Monday,” Vazquez, referring to an official count, said by telephone today.

De Blasio, 52, elected four years ago to the citywide watchdog post, had 40.2 percent of the unofficial voting-machine tally with 98 percent of precincts reporting, according to the Associated Press. Thompson finished second, with 26.1 percent.

A total above 40 percent would allow de Blasio to avoid a runoff. Thompson didn’t concede and said he’d fight on.

‘Left Behind’

“What we have achieved here tonight and what we will do in the next round of this campaign won’t just change the view of how things look inside City Hall, but will change the policies that have left behind so many of our fellow New Yorkers outside of City Hall,” de Blasio told supporters at a party last night in Brooklyn.

The Democratic winner will face Republican Joseph Lhota, 58, who served eight years as a top aide to former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, in the Nov. 5 general election. Lhota, former chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, won 52 percent against two rivals, supermarket billionaire John Catsimatidis and George McDonald, founder of the nonprofit Doe Fund.

Democrats outnumber Republicans more than 6-to-1 in the most populous U.S. city, where Democratic President Barack Obama got 80 percent of the vote last year. Yet for the past two decades City Hall has been occupied by Giuliani, a Republican, and Bloomberg, who ran in 2001 and 2005 as a Republican and in 2009 as an independent.

During that span, crime rates and welfare rolls plummeted and parks, stadiums, shopping, tourism, luxury apartments and office towers rose.

’Two Cities’

De Blasio built his Democratic support by speaking of a “Tale of Two Cities,” where almost half of New York residents are poor or struggling amid the luxury.

“Pretty soon you’re going to have to be rich to live in Manhattan,” said Kay Logan, 68, a retired teacher, as she waited to vote at 125th Street and Adam Clayton Powell Boulevard in Harlem. “De Blasio really spoke to those issues for communities of color.”

The next mayor will confront expired labor contracts with almost all the city’s workforce of 300,000. Municipal unions have insisted that wage increases include retroactive pay for the years worked without a contract, a proposition Bloomberg has rejected, saying it would cost as much as 10 percent of the city’s $70 billion annual budget.

Back Pay

De Blasio said he’s open to the possibility of granting back pay.

A former city council member from Brooklyn, de Blasio proposed increasing the municipal tax on income above $500,000 to raise $532 million to pay for all-day pre-kindergarten and after-school activities for adolescents. The measure would have to be approved by the state legislature.

Bloomberg attacked de Blasio’s proposal in a New York magazine interview published during the weekend before the election, in which the mayor called the public advocate’s campaign “class warfare.”

“This helped de Blasio among Democratic primary voters who are more liberal and were looking for a change,” said Robert Shapiro, a Columbia University political science professor.

In addition to proposing a tax increase, de Blasio may seek to address economic inequality by “asking businesses to help,” Howard Cure, director of municipal research for Evercore Wealth Management LLC in New York, said by e-mail today.

Key Questions

While “selective” New York City bonds remain “a key holding,” Cure said, “investing in New York City debt will become more difficult in this environment. Potential changes in business practices through legislation could result in mandatory paid sick leave for all small businesses, a ‘living-wage’ requirement for retailers” and “curtailed development subsidies,” Cure said.

Many of those initiatives “will require the approval of the city council as well as approval from the Albany legislature,” said Cure, whose firm oversees $4.7 billion in assets, including muni debt. “What impact these changes will have on the trajectory of the city’s economic growth remains a key question.”

Among transactions of $1 million or more, New York City general obligations maturing in August 2028 traded today at 11:10 a.m. in New York with an average yield of about 4.21 percent, down from 4.28 percent Sept. 6, the highest yield this year, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

’Dante Effect’

De Blasio, who is white, has also highlighted his opposition to police stop-and-frisk tactics, which affect mostly young black and Latino men. His wife, Chirlane McCray, who is black, is a frequent companion at campaign events. In a television commercial, their 15-year-old son, Dante, sporting a large Afro, praises de Blasio as the only candidate likely to rein in stop-and-frisk. He then reveals that de Blasio is his dad.

Pollster Lee Miringoff, director of the Poughkeepsie, New York Marist Institute of Public Opinion, said the ad created “the Dante effect.”

“Clearly that’s when things changed for him in a dramatic way,” he said.

For de Blasio, the victory marked a stark turnaround. He was in fourth place with just 10 percent support in a June 26 Quinnipiac poll. The ad featuring his son began Aug. 9; de Blasio seized his first lead in an Aug. 14 survey.

“It’s a testament to a campaign that peaked at the right time,” Miringoff said. “It reflects the fact that following a three-term mayor, voters want to move in a different direction.”

Three-Term Vote

The defining issue of the campaign may have been the 2008 City Council vote, led by candidate and Council Speaker Christine Quinn, to allow third terms for Bloomberg and most council members, which abrogated two previous referendum votes limiting local officials to two four-year terms, said Douglas Muzzio, professor of urban politics at Manhattan’s Baruch College.

“Quinn suffered on account of it,” Muzzio said.

Quinn, 47, finished third with 15.5 percent of the Democratic vote. Among the other candidates, former U.S. Representative Anthony Weiner received 4.9 percent; city Comptroller John Liu, 7 percent, and former City Councilman Sal Albanese, 0.9 percent, according to the AP.

Weiner, 48, entered the race May 22 and seized a lead from Quinn in several polls, only to lose support in July with revelations that he used the alias “Carlos Danger” to send sex texts and lewd photos of himself to a woman over the Internet last year -- behavior similar to that which forced him to resign from Congress in 2011.


De Blasio benefited most from Weiner’s demise, persuading Democrats that he was the most progressive candidate with a chance to win, Muzzio said.

“De Blasio offered the most consistent, clear critique of the Bloomberg administration, raising issues of inequality of wealth and inequality of treatment, as with the stop-and-frisk issue,” Muzzio said. “He was able to portray himself as the change candidate and offered at least the appearance of being most unlike Bloomberg.”

The same issues that led to de Blasio’s strong showing among Democrats may create challenges in a general election, said Shapiro, the Columbia University political scientist.

“While the Democratic primary electorate may not be enamored of Bloomberg, other voters may appreciate the ways he’s been effective and be wary of de Blasio being beholden to labor unions and other groups,” Shapiro said. “Lhota may find support from voters who aren’t happy with all the Bloomberg bashing.”

Bloomberg is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.

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