NEW YORK – Public Advocate Bill de Blasio completed his surge from seemingly nowhere in New York City’s mayoral primary Tuesday by taking a commanding lead on his Democratic opponents Tuesday, hovering near the threshold needed to avoid a runoff.
Former Metropolitan Transit Authority Chairman Joe Lhota easily won the GOP nomination, capping a chaotic primary to succeed 12 years of Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The night also marked the unceremonious end to the bid by a City Council leader trying to become the first female and openly gay mayor, and to the political comebacks of scandal-scarred candidates Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer.
“We are better as a city when we make sure that everyone has a shot,” de Blasio told his raucous Brooklyn victory party, emphasizing his campaign theme of combatting income inequality. “We begin tonight.”
With 97 percent of precincts reporting, de Blasio has about 40.2 percent of the total vote. He needs to stay above 40 percent in order to avoid triggering an automatic Oct. 1 runoff. If he cannot, he will face former city Comptroller Bill Thompson, who has 26 percent.
Council Speaker Christine Quinn was third at 15 percent, followed by current city Comptroller John Liu at 7 percent and Weiner at 5 percent. Elections officials are going to recount the ballots cast Tuesday and are expected to count an additional 30,000 or more votes in coming days as absentee ballots arrive by mail and paperwork comes in from voters who had problems at the polls. A final result may not be known for 10 days.
With de Blasio so close to 40 percent, Democratic leaders may pressure Thompson to drop out in the name of party unity. But Thompson made it clear Tuesday that he wanted to contest the runoff.
Exit polling shows that de Blasio would handily defeat Thompson in a runoff, 52 to 34 percent, with 9 percent saying they’d stay home.
The exit polling showed the appeal of de Blasio, who holds the position of the city’s official watchdog, to be broad-based: He was ahead in all five boroughs; was even with Thompson, the only African-American candidate, with black voters; and was ahead of Quinn, the lone woman in the race, with female voters. He also led Quinn, who is openly gay, among gay voters.
In the closely watched race for city comptroller, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer defeated Spitzer, who was seeking a return to politics after resigning New York’s governor’s office in 2008 amid a prostitution scandal.