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Bloomberg's third-term victory did not come easily

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By From news services and staff reports
Wednesday, November 4, 2009

New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg won reelection Tuesday, giving him the third term he began seeking last year when he campaigned for a change to the city's term-limits law.

But it was a hard-won victory. Despite an election-eve poll that showed the political independent comfortably ahead of Comptroller William C. Thompson (D), the result was in doubt for much of the night before Bloomberg pulled away late. With 99 percent of precincts reporting, the mayor led Thompson by four percentage points in the eight-candidate field.

Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino (D) was elected to an unprecedented fifth consecutive four-year term, while in Maine, a referendum on whether to overturn a state law that allows same-sex couples to marry was too close to call, separated by only a few thousand votes out of more than 320,000 cast.

Detroit voters reelected Mayor Dave Bing (D) to a full term, while Atlanta was choosing a successor to term-limited Mayor Shirley Franklin (D), the city's first female mayor. That election appeared headed toward a December runoff.

And in Ohio, a ballot initiative to authorize casinos in Columbus, Cleveland, Cincinnati and Toledo was too close to call.

Bloomberg began campaigning last year for New York to change its term-limits law so he could run again. The City Council did so after voters had twice rejected such a change.

The closeness of Bloomberg's victory is sure to raise speculation about the impact of the change and how much that served to trump his accomplishments in office. That subject had already dominated conversation at polling places around the city Tuesday.

"The main thing is to get Bloomberg out," said Véronique Doumbé, 52, a filmmaker from West Africa, speaking at an East Village polling place. "I'm coming from a country where the president never wants to leave. Term limits are essential for a democracy."

Even Bloomberg supporters said the change in the law gave them pause.

"I'm not crazy about the way he got himself on the ballot again, but I love the fact that he's non-political," said Vana Gierig, 48, a pianist. "I love the fact that he's creating bike paths."

Other supporters of the billionaire said they hoped his business sense could help steer the city into economic recovery. They said they appreciated his even keel and businesslike approach to problems among various groups.

"So far I haven't seen another mayor doing better than him," said Gino Pepoli, 79, a retired welder and mechanic.

Bloomberg spent a record-setting $85 million of his personal fortune on his campaign, after having spent $55 million and $65 million on his two previous races.

Staff writer Robin Shulman in New York contributed to this report.


© 2009 The Washington Post Company

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