New Yorkers Surprised By Bloomberg's Close Victory
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
The city of Houston will have to wait a while to learn the name of its next mayor. Nobody got a majority in yesterday's election, so the top two candidates face a runoff. The leading vote-getter in the first round was Annise Parker. And if she were to win, the nation's fourth largest city would have an openly gay mayor.
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
Houston was one of several cities to hold mayoral elections yesterday. Voters also turned out in New York, Atlanta and Detroit, and we'll visit all those cities in the next few minutes. We begin with NPR's Margot Adler in New York.
MARGOT ADLER: Everyone expected Michael Bloomberg to easily win a third term as the mayor of New York City. Polls the day before the election had the mayor ahead by some 12 percentage points, although about 10 percent of the voters were still undecided. But as the returns started coming in, the results were shockingly close.
In the end, only five points separated Bloomberg from his opponent. Bloomberg spent what may end up being more than $100 million on his reelection. Some have called it the most expensive self-financed campaign in U.S. history. His opponent, Democrat and New York City Comptroller William Thompson, will spend about a tenth of that amount.
Bloomberg flooded the airwaves, the U.S. mail and telephone lines with campaign messages. Some people received robo-calls and leaflets in the mail almost every day. Many ads were nasty and negative. There was resentment by many New Yorkers against the mayor for flouting democracy and overturning a term limits law twice approved by voters so he could run again. There was also resentment that in a deteriorating economy, the mayor spent so much money for an election many felt he would win easily. But in the end, it was closer than anyone thought.
Bloomberg, an independent, ran on the Republican and independent lines. This is a city where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans six-to-one, but many voters, no matter their party, supported the mayor because they believed that the city is better managed than it's ever been and more harmonious.
Some political analysts felt Thompson never really defined himself well. In his concession speech, he said it was important to get ideas like the plight of working people into the debate.
Mr. WILLIAM THOMPSON (New York City Comptroller): We may not have won the election, and yet I know that this campaign had to be waged.
ADLER: Bloomberg's victory speech emphasized independence, nonpartisanship and redoubling efforts in tough times.
Mayor MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (New York City): During the good times, we showed that New York City could outperform the nation in creating jobs, improving schools, fighting climate change, even extending life expectancy. And now in these tough times, we're going to show that we can keep outperforming the rest of the country.
ADLER: Joyce Purnick, the author of "Mike Bloomberg: Money, Power, Politics" wrote in the New York Times yesterday that no incumbent mayor of New York City has ever lost reelection unless done in by corruption, financial ruin or racial tension. She said Bloomberg could have saved himself all that money. But a day later, with a surprisingly close race, no one is really sure if that money hurt or helped him.
Margot Adler, NPR News, New York.
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