NEW YORK, N.Y. - New York City's public advocate held a clear lead Tuesday night in the Democratic primary election for mayor as polls closed, according to early and incomplete voting returns. It was unclear, though, whether he would top the 40 per cent threshold needed to avoid a runoff.
With 45 per cent of precincts reporting, Bill de Blasio had about 39 per cent of the total vote. Former city Comptroller Bill Thompson had 26 per cent, and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn had 15 per cent. They were followed by current city Comptroller John Liu at 8 per cent and Weiner at 5 per cent.
The winner of the mayor's race in November will assume the helm of the nation's largest city at a critical juncture, as it experiences shrinking crime rates yet widening income inequality, and as the nearly completed One World Trade Center building symbolizes a new era after the terrorist attacks of 2011.
The exit polling showed the appeal of de Blasio, the city's elected public advocate, to be broad-based: He was ahead in all five boroughs; was ahead of Quinn, the lone woman in the race, with female voters; and ahead of Thompson, the only African-American candidate, with black voters. The voter interviews were conducted by Edison Media Research for The Associated Press and other news organizations.
If no candidate surpasses 40 per cent of the vote, the top two finishers advance to an Oct. 1 runoff.
The winner of that contest would face the Republican nominee in the Nov. 5 general election. Joe Lhota, ex-transit authority chairman and former deputy mayor to Rudolph Giuliani, was battling billionaire grocery magnate John Catsimatidis for the Republican nominee. Exit polling was not available in that race.
In the closely watched race for New York City comptroller, Manhattan Borough President Stringer defeated ex-Gov. Eliot Spitzer, who was seeking a return to politics after resigning New York's governor's office in 2008 amid a prostitution scandal.
Bloomberg, the businessman Republican-turned-independent, is completing his third term. While the city's registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 6 to 1, the Republican Party's recent success in mayoral elections has been largely attributed to a crime epidemic, the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks or other extraordinary circumstances.
De Blasio, 52, has fashioned himself as the cleanest break from the Bloomberg years, proposing a tax on the wealthy to fund universal pre-kindergarten and changes to city police practices he says discriminate against minorities.
De Blasio, who worked in Bill Clinton's White House and Hillary Rodham Clinton's Senate campaign before being elected to the city council and then public advocate, became the front-runner in the race's final weeks. His surge was as sudden as it was unexpected, in part thanks to an advertisement that centred on his interracial family, his headline-grabbing arrest while protesting the possible closure of a Brooklyn hospital and the defection of Weiner's former supporters in the wake of another sexting scandal.
"I liked what he said about the economic inequality in the city," said Norma Vavolizza, 65, who lives in the Bronx and works in marketing. "I think it's a serious issue that needs to be addressed.
Quinn, who was bidding to become the city's first female and first openly gay mayor, was the front-runner for much of the year, boasting the biggest campaign war chest and strong establishment backing. But she has been dogged by her support to change term limits to let Bloomberg run again in 2009, a decision unpopular with liberals who make up the bulk of Democratic primary voters.
Turnout appeared light, but the city's complaint line received several thousand voting-related calls. Many reported jams and breakdowns in the antiquated lever machines, which were hauled out of retirement to replace much-maligned electronic devices.
In some sites, the broken machines forced voters, including Lhota when he tried to vote at his Brooklyn polling place, to use pen and paper to cast their ballot.
Associated Press video journalist Ted Shaffrey and Associated Press writers Jim Fitzgerald and Jake Pearson contributed to this report.
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