New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he won’t support a candidate to succeed him and will instead focus on easing the transition to the administration that begins Jan. 1.
“I’ve never been a partisan guy,” Bloomberg said during his weekly appearance on WOR radio. “Whoever the voters elect, I want to make sure that person is ready to succeed.”
Bloomberg, 71, is nearing the end of 12 years as mayor of the most populous U.S. city, a span in which crime dropped 31 percent and average life expectancy gained three years. He’s been criticized by both city Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, the presumptive Democratic nominee, and Republican candidate Joseph Lhota, a top aide to former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
Bloomberg may have calculated that his backing wouldn’t help either candidate, or decided to begin distancing himself from city politics, said Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion in Poughkeepsie, New York.
“Endorsements make for nice headlines,” Miringoff said. “Newspaper endorsements, political endorsements, those don’t have as much sway with voters as people think.”
De Blasio, 52, has made income inequality the central theme of his campaign, talking of a “Tale of Two Cities” in which 46 percent are poor or struggling. He says the mayor didn’t recognize that as a problem.
“After 12 long years, we need a change and we need a break from the policies of the Bloomberg administration that did not address the crisis of inequality,” de Blasio told supporters yesterday at a rally in Brooklyn.
The mayor, the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP, is barred from seeking a fourth term. He ran twice as a Republican and once as an independent who also appeared on the Republican line.
Lhota, 58, the former chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, was quoted in the New York Times last year saying Bloomberg spoke “like an idiot” when he estimated subway reopenings following Hurricane Sandy. He later called the mayor to apologize. He has also criticized the mayor’s budget stewardship, saying he could have reduced health-care and debt-service spending that Bloomberg labeled “uncontrollable.”
Today, during a television interview on Channel 11, Lhota said he agreed with more than 85 percent of the mayor’s policies. He has told reporters he will be seeking the votes of so-called “Bloomberg Democrats” who approve of the mayor’s performance.
“Joe did not ask for the mayor’s endorsement and he respects his decision to stay out of the race,” said Jessica Proud, Lhota’s spokeswoman.
George Arzt, a Democratic political consultant, said Lhota benefits from not being linked to Bloomberg. His association with City Council Speaker Christine Quinn “doomed her candidacy” in the seven-way Democratic primary, he said.
“Lhota has enough trouble being identified with Giuliani, who is a polarizing figure in this Democratic town,” Arzt said. “So Bloomberg would not help him.”
During the Channel 11 interview, Lhota said he agreed with de Blasio that the city should offer universal, all-day pre-kindergarten. He disagreed that the rich should be taxed to pay for it.
The Democrat has made the proposal a signature issue of his “Tale of Two Cities” campaign. It would raise the marginal tax rate on incomes above $500,000 to 4.4 percent from almost 3.9 percent, or an average $973 a year for the 27,300 taxpayers earning $500,000 to $1 million. That would raise more than $500 million to pay for universal all-day pre-school and after-hours programs for adolescents.
“We have the money within the budget to pay for universal pre-K,” Lhota said. “We need to find more efficiencies in our government to pay for programs just like this.”
Lhota has said de Blasio’s tax-the-rich plan and his emphasis on the gap between wealthy and poor would divide the city between income classes.
De Blasio finished the Sept. 10 primary election with 40.3 percent of the voting-machine tally, according to unofficial returns from 99 percent of precincts, the Associated Press reported. That surpassed the 40 percent he would need to avoid an Oct. 1 runoff with former city Comptroller William Thompson, who got 26.2 percent.
Before de Blasio can be certified as the Democratic mayoral nominee, he must await the city Board of Elections official count, which includes at least about 78,000 still-untallied paper ballots.
Thompson, 60, said he wanted to wait until the board completes its count before making a decision.
“As a democracy, our top priority must be that every vote be counted,” Thompson said today in a statement. “Today we begin that process with the Board of Election’s recanvass of all machine votes. We expect that process to move forward as accurately and expeditiously as possible.”