New York votes for new mayor

2013-11-05 10:22
Bill de Blasio. (Peter Foley, AP)

Bill de Blasio. (Peter Foley, AP)

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New York - Millions of New Yorkers go to the polls on Tuesday to elect a new mayor, with left-wing progressive Bill de Blasio tipped for a landslide victory to replace billionaire Michael Bloomberg.

The 52-year-old public advocate and his black formerly lesbian wife promise a new style to a city transformed by 12 years of tough love under Bloomberg, who is not standing again.

De Blasio's campaign has left Republican rival Joe Lhota trailing in the dust, picking up on the worries of the economically vulnerable middle class and tapping into a once reliably Democratic electorate.

An NBC-Wall Street Journal poll on Monday gave him an historic 41-point lead over Lhota, putting him on course to be the first Democrat elected mayor of the biggest US city since 1989.

But, with turnout typically weak for mayoral elections, de Blasio used the final day of campaigning to urge supporters to make good on their promises and to go out to vote.

"You have to go into every neighbourhood and tell people how much this matters," he said, pressing the flesh in his home borough Brooklyn in the early morning winter chill.

By trading heavily on public appearances with his wife Chirlane and teenage children Dante and Chiara, he has connected to ordinary families trying to make ends meet and a vastly diverse electorate.

His multiracial family has struck a chord in a city of great ethnic diversity: 33.3% of New York is white, 25.5% black, 28.6% Hispanic and 12.7% Asian.

'A relative unknown'

If elected New York's 109th mayor, de Blasio promises to raise taxes to fund universal pre-kindergarten education and after school programmes, and build 200 000 affordable housing units.

He wants to reform the "stop and frisk" policy, which critics say unfairly targets black and Hispanic minorities, but which supporters say has driven down crime.

He has campaigned hard on the divide between rich and poor in a city with more than 440 000 millionaires but where 21% live in poverty on $30 944 a year for a family of four.

A year ago he was a relative unknown and fought off stiff competition to win the Democratic primary, one reason analysts say for his determined lead over Lhota today.

Yet there are questions about whether he has the experience to lead a city hall staff of 300 000 and a budget of $72bn.

There are also concerns that New York politics will again fall victim to cronyism and election-cycles after Bloomberg (whose vast wealth left him beholden to no one) steps down.

Heath Brown, assistant professor of political science at Seton Hall University, said that de Blasio's biggest challenge would be to transition from campaign to governance.

Read more on:    michael bloomberg  |  bill de blasio  |  us

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