NEW YORK CITY — If recent polling is to be believed, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio has struggled among African American voters.
De Blasio has campaigned regularly with his African-American wife and their two children. He’s done the same with the black councilmembers and other elected officials supporting his campaign.
Yet, in the latest Quinnipiac University poll released Monday, de Blasio was in fourth among black voters, eight points behind former Rep. Anthony Weiner, who led all candidates with 24 percent of the black vote surveyed. This, despite the fact Weiner had suffered an overall tumble of 10 points since the last Quinnipiac poll taken just before the latest sexting scandal exploded last week.
On Tuesday, at a press conference announcing the endorsement of entertainer and civil rights hero Harry Belafonte—surrounded by African American elected officials and labor leaders, as well as his family—de Blasio made one of his strongest appeals yet to a constituency he’ll need to make gains with if he hopes to have any chance of making the primary runoff.
“We are desperately in need of a man who has a great vision, a man who has a great sense of the community, and a man who is committed to the working people of this city,” Belafonte said.
De Blasio’s focused on a consistent campaign theme, the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy, reiterating his call to end the controversial policy and accusing some of his Democratic opponents of “aiding and abetting” Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s defense of it.
But it was former comptroller Bill Thompson—the only African American candidate in the race—who suffered the most criticism from de Blasio and his supporters over his stance on the profiling ban, as well as the council measure to impose an inspector general on the police department. Bloomberg has vetoed both bills.
“He has very clearly been against a ban on racial profiling and against an independent inspector general,” de Blasio said. “It’s a moment of decision. People have to decide which side they’re on; you can’t be on both sides.”
At a Brooklyn church last weekend, Thompson gave a well-publicized speech comparing the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, and the subsequent acquittal of his killer, George Zimmerman, to stop-and-frisk, saying that both were occurrences of racial profiling. The comments were a strong departure for Thompson, who had walked a fine line on the issue in the past.
“Racial profiling happened in Florida. Racial profiling’s happening here,” de Blasio said. “If you believe that, then take the next step and be in favor of a ban on racial profiling.”
Some of de Blasio’s supporters criticized Thompson even more sharply.
“You need to make sure you’re connected to the people before you start making comments and decisions because you’re not connected to New York,” said Bronx Councilman Andy King, who is black. “This flip-flopping doesn’t help us.”
Confronted with the statistics on his support among black voters and whether he hoped events like the Belafonte endorsement would help turn that around, de Blasio responded in the broadest possible terms.
“I think people of all backgrounds are just beginning to focus,” de Blasio said, promising that his campaign would gain support “in a host of communities” that will propel him into the runoff.