Bill de Blasio leads in New York City mayoral primary; voters reject Anthony Weiner

September 11, 2013

New York City voters cast ballots Tuesday for candidates to replace outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg and for other city offices in a closely watched primary election. Voters rejected former congressman Anthony Weiner and former governor Eliot Spitzer, both seeking to redeem themselves after scandals. Bill de Blasio, the city’s public advocate, led his opponents in the contest for the Democratic Party’s nomination for mayor, revealing Democratic voters’ frustration with Bloomberg’s policies:

In the end, the race to succeed the billionaire mayor after three terms turned on whether the city wanted to build on or steer away from the substantial Bloomberg legacy, and de Blasio suggested the sharpest break. . . .

“The mayor,” de Blasio said Tuesday, “has been increasingly unwilling to address inequality in this city and that this is the central issue of our times.”

De Blasio, who has close ties to the city’s unions, surged late in the contest with an unabashedly progressive, anti-Bloomberg message and deft public deployment of his interracial family that seemed to sweep the city’s Democratic base off its feet. The only real suspense on Election Day centered on whether de Blasio could reach the 40 percent threshold to avoid a runoff. Falling short would mean having to face the mild-mannered Thompson, the only African American candidate in the race.

Jason Horowitz

De Blasio appeared close to that goal Wednesday morning:

De Blasio is at 40.2 percent of the vote with 98 percent of precincts reporting. If he fails to clear 40 percent, he would face a runoff with 2009 Democratic nominee Bill Thompson, who is in second place at 26 percent.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, the early favorite in the race, wound up with less than 16 percent of the vote, while city comptroller John Liu was at 7 percent and former congressman Anthony Weiner had less than 5 percent. . . .

The question is whether the next round is a runoff or the general election, which would pit him against GOP nominee Joe Lhota, who defeated businessman John Catsimatidis 53-41.

If de Blasio and Thompson do go to a runoff, it would be held in three weeks’ time, on Oct. 1.

Polls suggest de Blasio would enter that race with an advantage. A Quinnipiac poll last week showed him leading Thompson, who narrowly lost to Bloomberg in 2009, 56-36 in a hypothetical runoff.

Thompson, however, did over-perform some late polls of the race on primary day.

The matchup between de Blasio and Thompson would be an interesting one — particularly given the role that race has played in the campaign so far.

Thompson has campaigned as the “first African American comptroller in the history of our city,” while Bloomberg has accused de Blasio of exploiting his biracial family (his wife is black) for the benefit of his campaign.

Aaron Blake and Jason Horowitz

Bloomberg was also vilified in a recall election in Colorado, in which two state lawmakers who had voted for gun control legislation lost despite the mayor’s financial support:

In Colorado, voters recalled Democratic state Sens. John Morse and Angela Giron, strong backers of gun control legislation that passed earlier this year over the vocal objections of gun rights activists. The recall against Giron passed by a 12 percent margin, while voters ousted Morse by a far narrower 2 percent margin; the results mean two little-known Republicans, former Colorado Springs city councilman Bernie Herpin and conservative activist George Rivera, will fill the remainder of Morse’s and Giron’s Senate terms.

The legislation that spurred the recall efforts had the support of Mayors Against Illegal Guns, a coalition of city officials from across the nation that Bloomberg leads. After passage of the legislation, conservative activists collected more than 10,000 signatures to force both Morse, of Colorado Springs, and Giron, of Pueblo, back on the ballot.

Bloomberg inserted himself into the race last month by donating $350,000 to the cause. Other liberal groups spent millions more on television and mail ad campaigns aimed at saving the Democratic senators, while the National Rifle Association spent about $361,000 against the Democrats.

But Bloomberg’s money wasn’t necessarily a positive for Morse and Giron, both of whom tried to change the subject to anything other than the gun legislation.

Reid Wilson

Meanwhile, Spitzer and Weiner both failed to redeem their political careers:

Anthony Weiner’s ill-fated mayoral campaign ended with a string of final embarrassments: He mustered a mere 5 percent at the ballot box. One of his sexting partners tried to crash his primary night rally. And Weiner was caught making an obscene gesture to reporters as he was driven away.

Outside a “victory” party where supporters mourned a disappointing fifth-place finish in the Democratic primary, cameras crowded around Sydney Leathers, the 23-year-old whose sexting with the former congressman brought his once-high-flying campaign to a screeching halt.

“Why not be here?” Leathers asked reporters. “I’m kind of the reason he’s losing. So, might as well show up.”

Another politician with a sex scandal, Eliot Spitzer, lost the Democratic primary contest for city comptroller to Scott Stringer, the Manhattan borough president. Stringer took 52 percent of the vote to Spitzer’s 48 percent.

Spitzer resigned as governor in 2008 and admitted he paid for sex with call girls. In exile, he bounced around television as a pundit. Then, just four days before the deadline, he announced he was running for comptroller.

On the final campaign day for both men, the spotlight fell heavily on Weiner. His staff sneaked him into his own event, presumably to avoid Leathers, who had camped outside his headquarters all day hoping to confront him. His wife, Huma Abedin, who stood by his side at the height of the scandal, was nowhere to be seen.

And after a concession speech in which he got choked up as he spoke of family, a scowling Weiner was caught by a photographer giving a middle-finger goodbye to reporters as he was driven away.

Associated Press

For more on the election, watch the discussion below.

Voters head to the polls in two states Tuesday. GovBeat’s Reid Wilson explains how those races could add up to one big loss for New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. (The Washington Post)
Max Ehrenfreund is a blogger on the Financial desk and writes for Know More and Wonkblog.
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