Top row, left to right: Christine Quinn, Bill Thompson, Bill de Blasio, John Catsimatidis Bottom row, left to right: NYC voting sign, Joe Lhota, John Liu, Anthony Weiner
A herd of candidates seeking their party’s blessing to run for mayor made their final appeals to voters, crisscrossing the city in a frenzy of hand-shaking, cheek-kissing and pledge-making that will continue until the opening of primary polls Tuesday morning.
Polls open at 6 a.m., find your polling place here.
Bill de Blasio, the Democratic front-runner, showed up for a meet-and-greet with voters on the Upper West Side, where he got a butt-slap from Harry Belafonte and was mobbed by reporters, clogging the sidewalk and making it difficult for him to glad-hand. Volunteers nudged voters through the scrum to ask questions and take pictures.
Polls have shown de Blasio with a healthy lead over his rivals, including City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and former Comptroller Bill Thompson, who won the party’s nomination in 2009 and narrowly lost to Mayor Bloomberg.
De Blasio, basking in the attention, tried to sound humble, saying he was planning to fall short of 40 percent and end up in an Oct. 1 runoff.
“The numbers are very positive, but you just can’t be caught flat-footed,” he said.
Quinn also visited the Upper West Side, greeting commuters and parents taking their kids to the first day of school. Also, she kissed a dog.
"Don’t forget to vote tomorrow,” Quinn called out. “Keep me in your prayers!”
Turnout is forecast to be relatively light. Of the 3 million or so registered Democrats, less than a third are expected to cast ballots. There are less than 500,000 registered Republicans in the city, but a small fraction, maybe a tenth, are expected to vote in the primary.
When the polls open, voters may be surprised to find that the new electric machines that scanned ballots last year are gone. They’ve been replaced by the hulking old lever-operated boxes. The switch was made after Board of Elections officials warned they couldn't certify results from the new machines in time for a runoff. Officials now are looking out for problems with the old machines, which have been rushed back into service.
Thompson began Monday at his childhood home in Brooklyn, where he kicked off another of his 24-hour campaign marathons. The tour later led him to the FDNY’s Engine House 60 in the Bronx, where he thanked members of a firefighters union that endorsed him. He pledged not to close any firehouses.
“I’m not going to play games with the budget,” he said.
The firemen chanted: “Thompson! Thompson!”
The Republican front-runner, former MTA chairman Joseph Lhota, and his top rival, billionaire businessman John Catsimatidis, spent the morning on Staten Island, a Republican bastion in an overwhelmingly Democratic city. They visited senior centers, where they passed out sweets – donuts from Catsimatidis, cookies from Lhota – and politely interrupted card games to ask for votes.
Catsimatidis, who just celebrated his birthday, announced, “As of Saturday I was 65 years old, so I am now one of you. But I’m applying for a job tomorrow, and I need your help.”
Lhota endured a brief moment of confusion when an elderly woman told him she’d just seen an ad that said he was against the police tactic of stop and frisk, and was considering voting for someone else. Lhota assured her he was in favor of it.
“I got your vote again?” he asked.
“Yes," she said.
He kissed her.
“Don’t go against my police department,” she warned.
A little later she told him she told him she’d mistaken him for de Blasio.
Up in the Bronx, Anthony Weiner took a break from phone calls and interviews to give a pep talk to campaign workers gathered at Gun Hill Playground. Weiner, a married former congressman who resigned amid a 2011 sexting scandal, has fallen to near the bottom of the polls since revelations that he continued his online relationships with women after stepping down. He remains a source of fascination among the media, though; a couple hours before the Bronx visit, he appeared on the Today show.
"We're going to win this the classy way," Weiner told the volunteers. "Focus on the ideas."
On 125th Street in Harlem, Comptroller John Liu gathered among a small group of union workers who chanted: “The whole wide world is the Liu territory.”
Liu is near the bottom of the polls. But he was all smiles, and so was his wife, Jenny. He pumped his fist as the supporters sang out his name.
“I’ll be proud to be mayor for the people,” he said.
The mayoral race is just one of many underway in the city.
The biggest undercard fight is the battle for comptroller, pitting Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer against former Gov. Eliot Spitzer. Stringer, a veteran of local politics, spent much of the race seemingly assured of victory, only to be upended by the sudden arrival of Spitzer in early summer. Spitzer, who resigned from the governor’s office in 2008 after being caught in a prostitution sting, benefited from high name recognition to jump ahead in polls. But lately the race has appeared to level out, with the two candidates running neck and neck.
Voters are also choosing candidates in the Democratic primary for public advocate, which is, technically, the second most powerful position in city government; if the mayor dies or is unable to perform the functions of the office, the public advocate is next in line to run the city. The Democratic candidates are City Councilwoman Letitia James, State Sen. Daniel Squadron, former deputy public advocate Reshma Saujani, Cathy Guerriero and Sidique Wai. The winner will effectively win the general election, since there is no Republican in the race.
Three borough president offices — Manhattan, Queens and the Bronx — are also holding Democratic primaries. Staten Island and Brooklyn are uncontested.
One local primary, for Brooklyn district attorney, has drawn considerable attention because it pits a longtime incumbent, Charles Hynes, against a former federal prosecutor, Kenneth Thompson.
Hynes, long considered unbeatable, has come under scrutiny in recent months for his handling of sex cases against members of the Orthodox Jewish community, and for mounting questions about past murder convictions that were based on confessions taken by a controversial NYPD homicide detective.
Thompson, who was part of the team of prosecutors who won convictions in the police beating and sodomizing of Abner Louima, is now a high-profile defense lawyer. He recently represented hotel maid Nafissatou Diallo, who accused former International Monetary Fund chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn of sexual assault.