With three quarters of Democratic voters saying they wanted change, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio just edged over the 40 percent needed to avoid a run-off in the Democratic primary. But former Comptroller Bill Thompson, who came in second with 26 percent, vowed to plow on. The vote was a sharp rebuke to Mayor Michael Bloomberg and to City Council Christine Quinn, who ran as a nicer, gentler Bloomberg. Quinn came in a distant third.
The Board of Elections still needs to certify the vote count to officially determine whether there will be a run-off. That process begins on Friday.
But the night was a broad victory for Bill de Blasio, who trailed in the polls and was seen as an also-ran most of the election. "You have made this campaign a cause," de Blasio told supporters at the Bell House in the Gowanus neighborhood of Brooklyn, an artsy neighborhood that barely existed 12 years ago. "We are bigger, we are stronger, we are better as a city when we make sure that everyone has a shot."
De Blasio ran well across the board, winning more than 80 percent of black-majority precincts and doing particularly well in Brownstone Brooklyn. His victory party spilled over onto 7th street, where revelers basked in the warm night air and ate from food trucks selling pizza, weiner schnitzel, and lobster rolls.
Exit polls showed Democratic voters overwhelmingly wanted change, opposed Mayor Bloomberg's third term, and were unsettled by stop-and-frisk, a combination that buoyed de Blasio and sealed the fate of Christine Quinn.
As the results ticked in with de Blasio teetering just above the 40 percent mark, a defiant Bill Thompson took the stage at the Eventi Hotel near Penn Station, leading his supporters in a chant of "three more weeks! Three more weeks!" He added "This is far from over! Far from over!"
Thompson was endorsed by the United Federation of Teachers whose political action committee spent over one million dollars on the election. Union President Michael Mulgrew was vowing late Tuesday that the UFT could still "make a winner."
But Thompson, who lost to de Blasio among blacks, latinos, and whites, faces daunting hurdles. Fewer voters will go to the polls in a run-off, and union support for Thompson could waver if it becomes clearer they might have to negotiate a contract with a Mayor de Blasio.
One of the most emotional moments of the night came as Council Speaker Christine Quinn spoke to supporters at the Dream hotel near Union Square. Quinn had led the polls for months, and if she had won, could have been the first woman and first openly gay mayor of New York. But she barely cracked 15 percent. "This was a hard fought race," she said. "We took a lot of knocks. We were up against a lot of odds. But I am proud of the race we all ran."
But when the night ended, some Quinn supporters, like Assembly member Deborah Glick, were angry. "lt doesn't matter how hard a woman works, how qualified she is. Governing is hard, you develop a record, and campaigning is easy, and talk is cheap."
Quinn quickly left with her wife, Kim Catullo, leaving a room of supporters hugging and crying as they stepped over discarded blue-and-white placards that said "Christine Quinn, endorsed by The New York Times."
To hear more about election results, click the audio link above.