Bloomberg Victorious in New York Mayoral Race
STEVE INSKEEP, host:
In big city mayors' races across the country, most incumbents won. Exceptions came in Cleveland and in St. Paul, Minnesota, where a mayor who backed President Bush was unseated. In the nation's largest city, Michael Bloomberg got another four years in office. The Republican billionaire won in a landslide, despite the fact the city is overwhelmingly Democratic. NPR's Robert Smith reports.
ROBERT SMITH reporting:
Just four years ago, Bloomberg was a political novice with not much going for him except a large bank account. He squeaked into the mayor's office after September 11th and struggled through the early years of his term, notably raising taxes to deal with New York's financial crisis. Last night, he got to say, `I told you so.'
Mayor MICHAEL BLOOMBERG (New York City): I always dreamed that our victory tonight could send a message that you can make the tough decisions and be re-elected as long as they are the right decisions for the people you serve.
(Soundbite of cheers)
SMITH: The 20-point victory was sweet vindication for a man who just a few years ago had some of the lowest mayoral approval ratings ever recorded. He was booed at baseball games. Sixty-one percent of New Yorkers said they wouldn't even invite him to a Thanksgiving dinner. Maurice Carroll, who directs the Quinnipiac University poll, says Bloomberg didn't, and still doesn't, have that charismatic connection with New Yorkers.
Mr. MAURICE CARROLL (Quinnipiac University): People don't feel that he's like the guy next door because he's a zillionaire.
SMITH: But Carroll says slowly New Yorkers started to get accustomed to the mayor's calm, technocratic style.
Mr. CARROLL: People think he's competent, that he's run a businesslike administration, and that it brought a businesslike attitude to City Hall, and that's the kind of thing we hear.
SMITH: And Bloomberg started to show results. Crime rates went down, education test scores crept up. At the polls yesterday, voters responded. Tom Hall, a Democrat from Brooklyn, says that the mayor's office under Bloomberg has become almost non-bipartisan.
Mr. TOM HALL (Democrat, Brooklyn): I think it's refreshing. I think he makes the decisions based upon what he thinks is in the best interests of the city and it's very seldom that I've been able to discern is it having to do with party politics.
SMITH: Just in case voters didn't pick up that message on their own, Bloomberg spent at least $66 million of his own fortune on the campaign. No expense was spared. Not only was Bloomberg on TV nonstop, but the mayor was able to cut ads in languages like Mandarin, Russian and Urdu.
He outspent his Democratic opponent, Fernando Ferrer, by more than 8:1. Ferrer had hoped to become the city's first Latino mayor, but he never seemed to find an opening. He argued that Bloomberg was an elitist, out of touch with regular New Yorkers.
Mr. FERNANDO FERRER (Mayoral Candidate, New York City): Though, of course, I ran to win, I knew I could lose. So I ran first and foremost to raise a voice for those without one.
(Soundbite of crowd cheers and applause)
Mr. FERRER: And my friends, this voice, our voice, has been heard.
(Soundbite of crowd cheers and applause)
SMITH: Now New York Democrats have to come to terms with the fact they've lost the last four elections in a city that's 5:1 Democratic. Congressman Anthony Weiner, who also sought the Democratic nomination for mayor this year and is expected to run in 2009, says the Democrats have to take some of the blame themselves.
(Soundbite of crowd noise)
Congressman ANTHONY WEINER (Democrat, New York): We can't just round up the usual suspects and expect that that's going to be enough. We can't just say we're a Democratic city. We can't just say we've usually won, because now we haven't and we can't say that.
SMITH: At least they won't have to face this billionaire again. Bloomberg is limited to just two terms. Robert Smith, NPR News, New York.
RENEE MONTAGNE (Host): We may have results in American elections today, but we'll have to wait a bit longer for Afghanistan's. Final results from September's balloting there were expected today but they have been delayed again as investigators continue their inquiries into allegations of fraud. The landmark elections were billed as an important step toward establishing a representative government in Afghanistan. The chief electoral officer now says election results will be certified and announced within a few days.
This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News.