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Tight Democratic Primary Leaves Bill de Blasio Win in Limbo

By  Colby Hamilton and Julie  Shapiro | September 11, 2013 1:14am | Updated on September 11, 2013 1:26am

 New Yorkers voted in Democratic and Republican primaries Sept. 10, 2013.
Bill de Blasio Leads in Primary Race
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NEW YORK — Bill de Blasio's commanding lead in the Democratic mayoral primary late Tuesday night wasn't enough to guarantee him a straight shot to the general election — as Board of Elections staff said they still need to do a manual count to determine whether to hold a runoff.

With more than 19,000 paper ballots still waiting to be counted, the Board of Elections said Tuesday that they won't know whether there will need to be a runoff until at least next week.

The Board of Elections will begin the process of manual counting on Friday, going from machine to machine, and will start counting paper ballots on Monday, they said. The board "will keep going until every vote that was cast is counted," said Valerie Vazquez, a Board of Elections spokeswoman. She could not say how long the process would take.

De Blasio got 40.2 percent of the preliminary vote results — slightly above the minimum threshold to bypass a runoff on Oct. 1 — compared to Bill Thompson's 26.08 percent, according to WNYC.

Thompson refused to concede the race, telling cheering supporters, "There are still tens of thousands of ballots that remain to be counted." 

"We're going to wait for every voice to be counted. This is far from over," he added.


The Associated Press had not called the race as of midnight, and even de Blasio steered clear of discussing the potential runoff in favor of focusing on the next phase of the race.

In a speech just after midnight Wednesday, de Blasio told his supporters to keep up their energy, as it remained unclear whether he would have to face Thompson in an Oct. 1 runoff.

"As we leave here tonight, let's recommit ourselves to the movement that got us here," he told a cheering crowd at The Bell House in Brooklyn, flanked by his wife Chirlane McCray, daughter Chiara and son Dante. "We move forward with a sense of mission, a cause bigger than ourselves."

The winner of the Democratic primary will take on Republican Joe Lhota in the Nov. 5 general election.

The suspenseful evening on Tuesday capped de Blasio's dizzying ascent to front-runner, which few political pundits could have predicted just a month ago.

De Blasio gained ground on his opponents in recent weeks with a liberal platform that included a promise to radically reform stop-and-frisk and hike taxes on the wealthy to pay for free pre-K and after-school programs for city students.

He beat Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who had been a front-runner in early polls, in large part by courting voters disenchanted by Quinn's closeness with Mayor Michael Bloomberg and her promise to continue many of his policies.

Quinn earned just 15 percent of the vote and conceded the race in an emotional speech Tuesday evening in Chelsea's Dream Hotel, standing alongside her wife Kim Catullo.

"Our campaign was built on a deep and abiding faith in this city," Quinn said after thanking her supporters. "Our work is not over. Our work is never over."

Quinn broke down into tears as she spoke, and as she concluded, the crowd chanted, "You're not done!"

The primary results came after a day marred by problems with the old lever voting machines and other issues including last-minute changes to polling sites and voters' names not appearing on official rolls.

Among those who were affected by the voting headache were two of the mayoral candidates. Republican Joe Lhota had to use a paper ballot when his voting machine broke, and Democrat Anthony Weiner's campaign had to call a Board of Elections official after a ballot worker tried to give him an affidavit when his signature was missing from the roll books, according to their campaigns.

Weiner, who received a scant 5 percent of the vote, offered his concession speech shortly after 10:30 p.m. Tuesday.

"Now, sadly we did not win this time," Weiner told his supporters. "But I could not be more proud of the campaign that we ran. I could not be more proud of you."

"I was an imperfect messenger," Weiner added.

The disgraced congressman's long-rumored entrance into the race at the beginning of the summer injected a dose of adrenaline into the formerly sedate contest — which critics said quickly turned into a circus. Weiner quickly became the front-runner in the race, displacing Quinn, who never recovered in the polls.

When Weiner's campaign collapsed in July under new revelations he had continued his online sexting habits, de Blasio took advantage of the opportunity. After a high-profile arrest in protest of local hospital closings and a defining ad that prominently featured his son Dante's distinctive afro, de Blasio’s left-leaning message propelled him to the top of the Democratic heap.

Positioning himself as the anti-Bloomberg and true progressive in the race, de Blasio attacked his opponents over their positions on issues like stop-and-frisk, even as they accused him of holding positions that were essentially identical.

His signature campaign promise — to tax wealthy New Yorkers to pay for universal pre-K and after-school programs for middle school students — resonated with Democratic voters, despite questions over whether Albany would go along with the plan.

His opponents spent the final weeks of the primary race unleashing everything they had against de Blasio, from his association with slumlords that he had gone after as public advocate, to his support for overturning term limits when he wanted to be the City Council speaker in 2005. Yet, as the race entered its final days, the attacks appeared to do little damage, as de Blasio’s position in the polls continued to improve.

Here are results in other major primary races:

City Comptroller

Borough President Scott Stringer fended off a last-minute challenge by former Gov. Eliot Spitzer to win the Democratic primary for city comptroller. Stringer netted 52 percent of the vote, to Spitzer's 48 percent.

Public Advocate

City Councilwoman Letitia James and State Sen. Daniel Squadron will face off again in a runoff for the citywide public advocate seat, after neither of them secured 40 percent of the vote. There is no Republican candidate, so whoever wins the Oct. 1 runoff will win the general election as well. Other candidates included Reshma Saujani and Catherine Guerriero.

Brooklyn District Attorney

Challenger Kenneth Thompson pulled off a surprise win over longtime incumbent Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes, with 55 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary. However, the two contenders will face off again in November, as Hynes is also running as a Republican.

Manhattan Borough President

City Councilwoman Gale Brewer won the Democratic primary for Manhattan borough president, after she secured 35 percent of the vote, with nearly 90 percent of precincts reporting. Brewer beat Councilwoman Jessica Lappin, with 25 percent, Councilman Robert Jackson, with 21 percent, and former Community Board 1 Chairwoman Julie Menin, with 18 percent. Brewer will face Republican David Casavis on Nov. 5.

Queens Borough President

The winner of the Democratic primary for Queens borough president is City Councilwoman Melinda Katz, who received 44 percent of the vote with 99 percent of the precincts reporting. Katz beat Peter Vallone Jr., and Everly Brown. She will face Republican Tony Arcabascio in the general election Nov. 5.

Bronx Borough President

Incumbent Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz fended off a challenge from Mark Escoffery-Bey and secured 84 percent of the vote in Tuesday's Democratic primary, with 80 percent of precincts reporting. Diaz will face Republican Elizabeth Perri in November.

Reporting was contributed by Jeff Mays, Trevor Bach, Victoria Bekiempis, Andrea Swalec, Iris Mansour, and Ben Fractenberg