Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Bill de Blasio's [Near?-]Victory (& Secret Weapon) + UPDATE

Dante, Chiara, Bill and Chirlane de Blasio
(© David Handschuh, New York Daily News)
Below I've posted bit of silliness from one of my little drawing notebooks, though this post is about the serious and very positive outcome of last night's New York City Mayoral primary, which was the victory (perhaps without a runoff) of Brooklyn City Councilman Bill de Blasio over his Democratic rivals Bill Thompson (the 2009 opponent of retiring Mayor Mike Bloomberg), City Councilor and Bloomberg ally Christine Quinn, disgraced former Congressman Anthony Weiner, former City Comptroller and Councilman John Liu, and several other candidates. De Blasio needed 40% of the vote to avoid a runoff against the second-place finisher (Thompson, who finished with 26%) and appears to have just crossed that line, but all the votes have not yet been counted so if his margin does not hold up, there will be a runoff election in three weeks. The possibility of this became Bill Thompson's chant last night.   Even if there is a runoff, de Blasio is leading in the polls, and will likely trounce the mumbling Republican victor,  Joe Lhota, former MTA head and deputy mayor to Rudy Giuliani. The three Republicans running together received fewer votes that third-place Democratic candidate Quinn, a portent of what the outcome will be in the general election.

Just a few months ago De Blasio was listing in fourth place behind Quinn, Weiner and Thompson, but the combination of increased exposure to Quinn's record, Weiner's disastrous scandal, and Thompson's waffling on the New York Police Department "stop and frisk" policy opened up a space for one of the two most progressive candidates running. (Liu's politics are decidedly to the left of the other Democrats, and he was an outspoken critic of "stop and frisk," but the whiff of financial impropriety, linked to his prior campaign and a major funder, kept him in single digits throughout.)  What boosted De Blasio's profile were his insistent push for economic policies that differed from those of the Bloomberg era, and the brilliant debut of a campaign commercial featuring a 15-year-old, brown-skinned prodigiously afroed young man named Dante, who speaks personally about the "stop and frisk" policy, and who reveals only at the political ad's end that he is, in fact, Bill de Blasio's son. Perhaps there was no direct correlation, but after the ad aired, de Blasio's star began to rise and it soared all the way to the campaign's end. It neutralized Thompson's support among black voters and reflected for Democratic-leaning voters a reality, embodied by de Blasio's family, of the city most of them live in; not just one brimming with hipsters and billionaires, but the largest, most racially, ethnically and religiously diverse city in the US. De Blasio also won over women and LGBTIQ voters from Quinn, who, had she emerged as the front-runner, would have been New York City's first woman and lesbian (i.e., openly gay) mayor.

De Blasio will face an array of challenges when he takes office. First among them will be negotiating both back wages and new contracts with the city's various unions. There will also be the issue of future pension funding, a responsibility that is the direct purview of the city's comptroller, a job that former Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer won over former governor and Attorney General Eliot Spitzer, but over which the mayor will have some say. Another pressing issue will be to find a way, at a time of tremendous, increasing economic inequality and government complacency about unemployment and the housing crisis, to create more and better-paying jobs for poor, working-class and middle-class New Yorkers. Under Bloomberg the city has increasingly expanded its tech sector, but the job opportunities remain stratified, with little for average New Yorkers in a city that is already among the most expensive in the world. Whether De Blasio will continue the positive, visionary aspects of Bloomberg's tenure (quality-of-life improvements like the bike lanes; advance planning and transformation of the city's infrastructure in preparation for mega-storms caused by global warming, etc.) is unclear. De Blasio might have visionary plans of his own that will benefit a wide array of city residents and visitors. He inherits a city that works in many ways but doesn't in others. Building upon the former while addressing the latter are tall challenges, but de Blasio looks more than capable enough to meet them.

UPDATE: As of today, Friday, September 13, 2013, 70,000 votes remain to be counted in the Democratic primary. These emergency, absentee and affidavit ballots, mainly in predominantly black neighborhoods, could break for Thompson or de Blasio, or perhaps for another candidate, so they should be counted. I must note that in 2009, Mike Bloomberg defeated Bill Thompson by only 50,597 votes total, in the general election for the mayorship. So counting and certifying all the votes is crucial, and Thompson should stay in the race until this happens, even if that means a run-off. De Blasio still seems poised for a victory in that contest, and in the general race against Joe Lhota.

1 comment:

  1. I used to have an afro like Dante. But that was in the 70s. I don't live in NYC anymore, but I am so glad that de Blasio won. And I hope he won't have to face a runoff.