After a topsy-turvy, chaotic campaign, New York City voters are headed to the ballot Tuesday to select their Democratic and Republican mayoral nominees to replace retiring Michael Bloomberg.
Early Democratic leader and Bloomberg heir-apparent Christine Quinn, New York city council speaker, fell swiftly in the polls as disgraced former congressman Anthony Weiner surged. But Weiner soon slipped, after being outed for continuing to send elicit electronic messages to women – not his wife – following his congressional resignation for the same behavior. His fall from grace included a news conference where his wife, Huma Abedin, read a note of support on his behalf.
But the benefactor of the tumult and now favorite to win the Democratic nomination is New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, who polling shows is flirting with the 40 percent threshold needed to stave off a runoff election.
"Building on the displeasure of Democratic primary voters with the stop-and-frisk policing policy, the extension of term limits, that was the de Blasio foundation and his ad campaign really connected," says Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute of Public Opinion. "A majority of those voters who have seen an ad by de Blasio, Quinn and [Bill] Thompson, think [de Blasio's] ads are the best and they are also most likely to say they learned positive things about him from his ads."
Miringoff says de Blasio's campaign is showing that "in New York right now, demography isn't destiny."
"He's beating Quinn with women voters, he's beating Thompson among African-American voters, he's beating Weiner among Jewish voters and leading in all five boroughs," Miringoff says.
George Arzt, former journalist and press secretary to former Mayor Edward Koch, says Bloomberg's controversial remarks to a New York Magazine reporter accusing de Blasio of running a "racist" campaign have actually helped de Blasio build support. De Blasio's wife is African-American poet Chirlane McCray.
"I mean he's making an appeal using his family to gain support," Bloomberg said.
Arzt says some union support and the reaction to Bloomberg's remarks will work together to inch de Blasio near 40 percent. Quinn suffered, he adds, because though many voters like Bloomberg, they are also ready for a change.
On the Republican side, Joe Lhota, CEO of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority is facing off against businessman John Catsimatidis.
Miringoff says the polling is spotty because there are so few expected Republican primary voters.
"I think there's a sense of Catsimatidis trying to be the businessman versus what he would call the politician [in Lhota,] and Lhota clearly has the governmental experience so it's unclear which of those values will win out," he says. "But there's a sense is that Lhota is okay."
But Arzt predicts an easy Lhota victory, setting up a possible close race headed into November.
"Lhota will be competitive in November against de Blasio because they present such striking polar opposites," he says. "I think there are many people who when they focus on de Blasio will think that Lhota may be an option for them."
If candidates on either side fail to reach the 40 percent threshold, a one-on-one primary runoff will be held Oct. 1.