A day after a new poll showed Bill de Blasio emerging from low polling to take the number two slot in the New York City mayoral race, he rolled out on Tuesday an endorsement from a civil rights icon, an array of black supporters standing with him on stage.
Harry Belafonte, who is legendary in the civil rights movement, and Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY) endorsed de Blasio, the city’s public advocate, at a press conference designed to highlight his support in the black community. That support is significant given that Bill Thompson, a mayoral rival, is the only African-American in the race.
“I’ve watched this city go through many ups and downs, and now we’re in a time when we are desperately in need of a man who has a great vision, a great sense of the needs of the community, and a man who is committed to the working people of this city,” Belafonte said.
Belafonte, who was a confidant of Martin Luther King Jr., added that he was backing de Blasio over his fight to save two Brooklyn hospitals and opposition to the police tactic stop-and-frisk.
Thompson has said in the past that he would regulate the practice blacks say is racial profiling but wants to keep it as a legitimate law-enforcement tool. On Sunday, he modified his stance at an event with Al Sharpton, comparing the tactic to the George Zimmerman trial verdict earlier this month.
Clarke, a black congresswoman representing Flatbush, seized on the stop-and-frisk issue as the reason for her supporting de Blasio.
“New York City needs a mayor who respects the rule of all, the civil rights and civil liberties of all New Yorkers, and who will lead by putting an abrupt halt on the excessive use of stop-and-frisk and who will stand and fight alongside me for a national ban on racial profiling,” she said. “Bill de Blasio is such a leader.”
The first poll showing De Blasio, who has put himself forth as the progressive on the race, as a surging candidate came Monday. The Quinnipiac University survey has City Council Speaker Christine Quinn in first place with 27 percent of likely voters, followed by de Blasio at 21 percent. Thompson is at 20 percent, with former Rep. Anthony Weiner falling to fourth place at 16 percent and Comptroller John Liu at 6 percent.
De Blasio, a former city councilman who represented parts of Boro Park, said on Tuesday morning that he was not surprised that voters are turning to him in this late stage.
“I always had faith — I really did — that when people started to focus, which we know is only the weeks before an election in almost every instance except for a presidential election … when people start to focus, a real progressive impulse was going to come out in the New York City electorate,” de Blasio said.