Brigid Bergin is the City Hall reporter for WNYC. She covers city politics including the 2013 mayoral race and transition.
Mayoral candidates Bill de Blasio and Bill Thompson have been reaching out to black voters this week as support for Anthony Weiner continues to decline in the polls.
In the last mayoral election, voters from predominantly African American and Afro Caribbean voting districts made up more than a quarter of the voter turnout, according to an analysis by the City University of New York. When Weiner was leading the pack, he was bolstered by strong support from African American voters. But as his total numbers have slid, his rivals are targeting this key demographic with a pitch of their own.
On Sunday, Bill Thompson took to the pulpit of a Brooklyn church to talk about the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.
"Even if you accept that the system worked in the Florida trial, you must also recognize that the system failed," said Thompson. "It failed Trayvon."
Then Tuesday, Bill de Blasio picked up a key endorsement from Harry Belafonte, the performer and 1960’s civil rights activist.
Thompson was back on City Hall steps Wednesday collecting endorsements from city clergy and defending his position on stop and frisk, as the de Blasio campaign accused him of playing all angles on police issues.
But for all the heat between the candidates, African-American voters are still lukewarm about them both. Even in the latest Quinnipiac poll, Weiner leads among black voters with 24 percent. Still, when talking to African American voters in Brooklyn, it's unclear who's the favorite.
On Fulton Mall in Brooklyn, Madeline Maupins, 50, had stopped with a friend to buy Italian ice. She knows what she wants from a mayor, but she couldn’t remember who was running without prompting. She knew of Thompson but wasn't a supporter yet.
"I’m not very familiar with his credentials," said Maupins.
Over at Juniors restaurant on Flatbush Avenue, 69-year-old Barbara Cross, a retired nurse's aide, picked her candidate because of her union. She's a member of 1199 SEIU, which endorsed Bill de Blasio.
"We make the choices that the union do," said Cross. "I mean, not everybody, but the diehard union members will always be supportive of who the union backs."
Back on the mall, Dale Haynes, 52, was eating his lunch outside at one of the new parks on Fulton Street. He used to support Weiner, but said he switched over to Thompson, describing him as low-key, business-oriented and scandal-free.
Haynes added, "Maybe he’ll be more able to concentrate on his duties, more so than the beauties."
The only other candidate whose name came up besides Weiner's, without prompting, was Council Speaker Christine Quinn. Currently, she's polling third among black voters.