Sunday, March 9, 2014
By Jonathan Lemire / The Associated Press
NEW YORK — Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, who ran an upstart campaign pledging to fight New York City's economic inequality, emerged as the surprising top choice in the Democratic mayoral primary, but could still face weeks — and another electoral fight — before becoming his party's nominee.
New York City Democratic Mayoral hopeful Bill De Blasio embraces his son Dante, left, daughter Chiara, second from left, and wife Chirlane, right, after addressing supporters at his election headquarters after polls closed in the city's primary election Wednesday, in New York.
The swirling, chaotic campaign to replace Mayor Michael Bloomberg, which featured Anthony Weiner's latest sexting scandal and at least three lead changes in the polls, was fittingly plunged into uncertainty again after the Tuesday primary bled into early Wednesday.
With 97 percent of precincts reporting, de Blasio had about 40.2 percent of the total vote, which puts him a whisker above the 40 percent threshold needed to avoid triggering an automatic Oct. 1 runoff. If he cannot maintain that, he will face former city Comptroller Bill Thompson, who has 26 percent, for a potentially grueling three-week, one-on-one showdown, with the winner advancing to face Republican nominee Joe Lhota in the general election.
But it may take a week or more before it is known whether that battle will be fought at all.
The campaign will take a pause Wednesday as the city stops to observe the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Later this week, election officials will recount all the ballots cast Tuesday. It will likely take until early next week before they tabulate an additional 30,000 or more votes as absentee ballots arrive by mail and paperwork comes in from voters who had problems at the polls.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, the early frontrunner who was seeking become the city's first woman and openly gay mayor, finished third at 16 percent, followed by current city Comptroller John Liu at 7 percent and Weiner at 5 percent.
De Blasio, who was flanked by the interracial family he made a centerpiece of his campaign ads, made no mention of the potential runoff in his speech to supporters late Tuesday.
"We are better as a city when we make sure that everyone has a shot," de Blasio told the raucous crowd. "We begin tonight."
With de Blasio so close to 40 percent, Democratic leaders may pressure Thompson to drop out of the race in the name of party unity. Exit polling shows that de Blasio would handily defeat Thompson in a runoff, 52 to 34 percent, with 9 percent saying they would stay home.
But Thompson made it clear Tuesday he would compete in a potential runoff.
"Three more weeks! Three more weeks!" chanted Thompson, the party's 2009 nominee. "This is far from over."
De Blasio, more than any other candidate, benefited from the rapid fall of Weiner, who was leading in the polls before he was felled by his old demons.
A gossip site revealed that Weiner used the online handle Carlos Danger to continue to send X-rated messages to women even after he resigned from Congress in 2011 for the similar behavior.
His ill-fated campaign had two final embarrassments in its last minutes: one of his online paramours, Sydney Leathers, tried to crash his primary night rally and Weiner was caught making an obscene gesture at reporters as he was driven away.
Another scandal-scarred politician, Eliot Spitzer, who resigned as governor in 2008 after paying for sex with prostitutes, tried to run a self-financed campaign for the lesser office of city comptroller. But his distant, television-heavy campaign struggled to connect with voters and he lost to Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.
(Continued on page 2)