For some, the Democratic Party’s long, competitive and sometimes bruising primary for mayor ended not with a bang, but with a whimper.
But for city Democrats, desperate to win back City Hall for the first time in two decades, that whimper came with a smile, a handshake and perhaps a sigh of relief on Monday.
Only two weeks before the potential runoff between Public Advocate Bill de Blasio and former Comptroller and 2009 Democratic candidate Bill Thompson, the race came to a quiet ending engineered by the state’s most powerful Democrat, Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
“I am proud to stand here today and support Bill de Blasio to be the next mayor of the city of New York,” Thompson said on the steps of City Hall Tuesday morning, officially ending his campaign.
De Blasio also got the Queens-born governor’s endorsement at the City Hall event. Cuomo said the Democratic nominee would “lead this city in the great progressive Democratic traditions that made this the greatest city on the planet.”
Thompson’s concession came as the city Board of Elections began recanvassing the votes from last Tuesday and counting paper ballots. During the morning on Monday, the canvassing led to an increase in de Blasio’s lead and at the time Thompson conceded, de Blasio was at 40.5 percent, over the 40 percent required to avoid a runoff.
On Tuesday, Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D-Manhattan), who came in third in the primary, also endorsed de Blasio.
“It is time for Democrats throughout our city to put aside their differences and fight together for the progressive values we all share,” Quinn said in her endorsement.
Quinn and de Blasio have a long, often contentious political relationship that goes back to 2005, when she and then-Councilman de Blasio battled it out for Speaker, a race Quinn ultimately won.
As the party unified behind de Blasio this week, several Queens elected officials also got behind him, including Council members Danny Dromm (D-Jackson Heights), Jimmy Van Bramer (D-Sunnyside) and Donovan Richards (D-Rosedale), state Sen. Joe Addabbo Jr. (D-Howard Beach) and Assembly members Nily Rozic (D-Fresh Meadows), Mike Miller (D-Woodhaven) and Phil Goldfeder (D-Rockaway Park). In a press release sent out Friday, de Blasio included an endorsement of Assemblyman Mike Simanowitz (D-Kew Gardens Hills), but on Twitter, Simanowitz said he had not endorsed anyone.
The Queens Democratic Party had endorsed Quinn.
Notable Thompson backers, including Reps. Hakeem Jeffries (D-Brooklyn/Queens) and Greg Meeks (D-Jamaica) also endorsed de Blasio this week.
Thompson took the opportunity Monday to blast the BOE, which is still counting votes more than a week after ballots were cast. Had there been a runoff — and there still technically would be if de Blasio’s total drops below 40 percent — it would be held Oct. 1, two weeks from this past Tuesday.
“We don’t know how many votes I got, or even how many votes were cast,” Thompson said. “When are they going to finish? It’s such a disadvantage — it just isn’t fair.”
On Monday, several key election districts had still not reported, according to The New York Times results map, including some in Astoria, Forest Hills, Ozone Park, St. Albans, Hammels and Arverne by the Sea. However, the election districts that still haven’t reported were surrounded by ones de Blasio won or performed well in.
De Blasio’s road to Gracie Mansion still has one hurdle, and that’s former MTA chief Joe Lhota, who clinched the Republican nomination. Lhota spoke to reporters outside Central Park on Monday and attempted to cast himself as a change candidate.
“De Blasio’s change is radical,” Lhota said. “ My change is practical. It’s a much better way to talk about the problems of income and inequality to talk about what we’ll do, each of us, as mayor instead of using divisive language.”
But Lhota’s path to victory is a tough one in the city that is 6 to 1 Democrat and a race with no incumbent. One Republican official said the party did not expect a Democrat to win the primary without a runoff.
“We always assumed another candidate would make it to the general after a runoff and he or she would not have [Bill de Blasio’s] favorable ratings,” the official said. “It’s going to be extremely difficult for Joe to overcome that.”
Mayor Bloomberg said last week he would not endorse anyone in the race, including Lhota, who does have the support of former Mayor Giuliani.
New York City Democrats are no strangers to divisive primary elections. The last mayoral race won by the Democrats, in 1989, came after a brutal primary in which David Dinkins, then the Manhattan borough president, defeated incumbent mayor Ed Koch. Dinkins, the first black mayor, narrowly beat Giuliani in that race in which Giuliani ran a campaign appealing, somewhat successfully, to Koch Democrats in white, working-class neighborhoods in the outer boroughs who were skittish about the high crime rate and stagnant city economy. Dinkins would ultimately lose narrowly to Giuliani in 1993, triggering the two decade dominance of the GOP in the Mayor’s Office.
Divisive primaries helped foil Democratic opportunities in 1997, 2001 and 2005. In 1997, then-Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger barely cleared 40 percent against her second-place opponent in the Democratic primary, Al Sharpton; but for several days after the election, it appeared Messinger and Sharpton would meet in a runoff. In 2001, then-Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer and then-Public Advocate Mark Green faced each other in a runoff that became nasty. Green narrowly won the runoff 51 percent to 49 percent, but many of Ferrer’s supporters jumped ship to Mike Bloomberg or stayed home on Election Day and Bloomberg, who ultimately won 50 percent to 48 percent, was buoyed by the post-9/11 political climate and Giuliani’s endorsement of him.
In 2005, Ferrer finished first in the primary, just barely clearing 40 percent against then-Rep. Anthony Weiner, who did not concede until several days after the primary election.