Dem Primary: Usually Exciting, Not This Time

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    NEWSLETTERS

    AP
    Democratic mayoral candidates, New York City Councilman Tony Avella, left, and New York City Comptroller William Thompson Jr. laugh during their first mayoral debate.

    Democratic primaries in left-leaning New York City are usually crowded and exciting, except this year.
        
    Only two Democrats are in the running for mayor, and they've spent most of their time ignoring each other and instead attacking the popular billionaire incumbent, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a former Republican who is not registered with any party but is running on the GOP and Independent lines.

         Democrats outnumber Republicans by a ratio of 5 to 1 in New York City, and the last two mayoral races each had four strong Democrats running in the primary. Runoffs and bitter battles are not uncommon.
        
    The 2009 election was shaping up to be that kind of race again until Bloomberg reversed his long-held support for term limits last year and pushed City Council to change the law so that he could run again for a third consecutive term. After that, a number of would-be mayoral challengers dropped out or changed their plans.
        
    The Democrats who stuck with it -- Comptroller William Thompson Jr. and Councilman Tony Avella -- have limped through the primary race, struggling to raise money and attract attention, already drowned out by Bloomberg's well-funded and advertising-obsessed re-election operation.
        
    The mayor, who finances his campaign with his multibillion-dollar fortune, has hired most of the city's best strategists and consultants, who began building individual voter profiles while blanketing the airwaves and filling mailboxes with ads months ago.
        
    In the Democratic race, public opinion polls have shown Thompson is ahead of Avella by as much as 30 points, and is expected to win on Tuesday.
        
    Thompson, 56, has been the city's comptroller since 2002. Previously, the Brooklyn native was president of the school board, and has also worked in the private sector as senior vice president at an investment bank.
        
    Avella, 57, represents parts of Queens in the City Council, where he is perhaps best known for refusing to take the pay raise the council gave itself in 2006. His salary is $90,000 instead of $112,500.
        
    He also once said authorities should enforce a 1909 law requiring English-only storefront signs.
        
    There has hardly been a cross word between Thompson and Avella throughout the primary, nor has either candidate offered up many specific policies.
        
    In their final debate Wednesday, Thompson hesitated and looked surprised when asked what his first action would be as mayor. He eventually answered that he would fire all of Bloomberg's commissioners. Most commissioners leave on their own when an administration changes.
        
    The race, analysts say, is a snooze.
        
    "This election could be found in the sleep aid section at the pharmacy,'' said Doug Muzzio, public affairs professor at Baruch College.
        
    The other citywide races -- for public advocate and comptroller -- have also been mostly uneventful, attracting notice only from devoted political observers.
        
    Four Democrats are competing in the race for public advocate, the ombudsman of the city who is second in line if something happens to the mayor. With no strong Republican challenger, the winning Democrat is favored to win the general election.
        
    The front-runner in most public opinion surveys is Mark Green, who has already held the job. He was the first person elected to the post in 1993 after it was created. Now president of Air America radio, Green has also run unsuccessfully for mayor and U.S. Senate.