New York’s current Public Advocate Bill de Blasio is poised to become the city’s first Democratic mayor of New York in two decades. His Republican opponent, former MTA chief and longtime Rudy Giuliani aide Joe Lhota is expected to capture only 26% of the vote according to recent polls. But, despite his long odds, Lhota has been fighting a tough, well-financed campaign to keep DeBlasio out of Gracie Mansion. Here are five key factors to watch as the returns come in on Tuesday night.
STATEN ISLAND VOTE
If Lhota has any hopes of becoming mayor, he needs to run up the score on Staten Island, the least populous but most Republican of New York’s five boroughs. In 2009, when he narrowly won re-election, Michael Bloomberg received over 66% of the vote. Lhota needs to match, if not exceed that performance to even have a chance.
The 2009 mayoral election saw the lowest voter turnout in recent city history. Based on the dismal turnout in September’s mayoral primary elections, it’s likely that a new low will be set on Tuesday. After all, there were competitive races up and down the ballot in both parties in the primary, not to mention the titillating presence of Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer.
WILL BLOOMBERG COALITION’S PERSIST
Greenwich Village isn’t often a Republican bastion but Michael Bloomberg, who won his first two mayoral races as a Republican and his third as an Independent, carried the neighborhood in 2009. The incumbent mayor won lower Manhattan neighborhoods more often associated with the Socialist Party than the Republican Party by running as a unique hybrid: a tough on crime, socially liberal, billionaire money manager who taxed Wall Street to fund social programs. Bloomberg’s formula for success also required record high campaign spending and isn’t likely to be repeated any time soon.
The electoral map for Bloomberg was one deeply segregated by race. White voters, regardless of their normal partisan affiliation, backed the Republican mayor while blacks and Latinos overwhelmingly backed the African-American Democratic candidate, Bill Thompson. While these neighborhoods are expected to return to their normal Democratic allegiances in municipal elections, some voters might not follow. If this is a significant bloc, it could mark a permanent realignment in city politics.
Much of Lhota’s campaign has centered around his administrative experience working for former mayor Rudy Giuliani, who has been an active surrogate for the GOP nominee. However, it’s not the only race in New York where Giuliani is playing a major role. The former mayor has endorsed Democrat Paul Vallone in New York’s most competitive city council race in Northeast Queens. Vallone is the son of Peter Vallone Sr. who was City Council Speaker when Giuliani served as mayor. With Giuliani’s legacy in the Big Apple still under debate, the race will be another important measuring stick of how New Yorkers view the man once dubbed “America’s Mayor.”
One of the stranger subplots in the mayor’s race has been the steady decline of third party candidate Adolfo Carrion. Carrion resigned as Bronx borough president to join the Obama administration in Washington. Considered a Democratic rising star, Carrion jumped ship by trying to run as a Republican in the mayoral primary race before settling on the Independence Party’s ticket. As the campaign has dragged on, he’s become increasingly irrelevant and wasn’t invited to participate in the general election debates. His final vote tally will be an interesting measuring stick of how far Carrion’s political stock has fallen.