Mayoral Hopefuls Do Last-Minute Campaigning
The leading mayoral candidates raced across the city Monday in a frantic, final full day of campaigning to make their closing arguments to voters in the hours before polls open, a pace that belied a contest whose outcome seems all but certain.
Democrat Bill de Blasio, the public advocate and front-runner in the race, attended large campaign rallies in three boroughs and urged his supporters to turn out Tuesday. His Republican rival, Joe Lhota, appeared in Manhattan and on Staten Island during the day and was set to appear alongside his former boss, ex-mayor Rudy Giuliani, at a pair of evening campaign stops.
The final blitz was a fitting coda for the yearlong campaign to select Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s successor, a marathon marked by debates on hot-button issues, outsized personalities and staggering political implosions.
But for all the surreal spectacles the campaign has generated, there is little evidence of an 11th-hour surprise. Since winning his party’s primary, de Blasio has led every general election poll by nearly 40 points. Democrats outnumber Republicans 6-to-1 in the city.
De Blasio’s tour Monday felt at times like a victory lap as he moved from Brooklyn to the Bronx to Queens, pledging to remember New Yorkers who felt left behind by what they perceived as Manhattan-centric policies during Bloomberg’s three terms as mayor.
“Together we will make this a city for everyone again,” said de Blasio to a crowd gathered at a Bronx senior center. “The way that Mayor Bloomberg did things is not the only way to do things, I assure you.”
Even when he was running fourth in Democratic primary polls over the summer, de Blasio offered himself as the cleanest break from the city’s dozen years under the leadership of Bloomberg, the billionaire who guided New York through the aftermath of 9/11 and the meltdown on Wall Street.
Accusing Bloomberg of favoring real estate developers and the finance world, de Blasio offered his own progressive platform that included ending what he calls the abuse of stop-question-and-frisk and a tax hike on the wealthy to pay for universal pre-kindergarten.
He moved up in the polls thanks in part to the implosions of the candidacies of two former front-runners, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and ex-U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner. Now, with City Hall appearing to be within his grasp, de Blasio noted that a rout could give him a mandate powerful enough to push through his agenda, including the tax hike, which would need support in Albany.
“The more support you get in the election, the more ability you have to achieve your goals,” said de Blasio. “If we get a strong result, it will help us get our work done.”
Lhota, meanwhile, seemed to revel in his underdog status. As he walked through Harlem, a heavily African-American neighborhood expected to go decisively for de Blasio, he continued to hammer what he believes is his rival’s thin executive resume while mixing in a few dance moves set to the music blaring from a passing car.
“Momentum is in my favor at this time,” said Lhota, who was praised for his performance last year during Superstorm Sandy when he headed the city’s transit agency. “I’m very, very comfortable with where I am, and I’m very optimistic.”
Lhota, a deputy mayor in the Giuliani administration during the Sept. 11 terror attacks, has largely pledged to continue the policies, particularly on public safety, of Bloomberg and his former boss.
Giuliani Campaigns For Lhota, First Time in General Election
Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani over the weekend returned to the campaign trail with Joe Lhota, his deputy mayor, declaring that the ruling by a federal appeals court to halt the implementation of stop-and-frisk was a game changer in the election, in which Lhota is severely down in the polls.
“The whole rationale for Mr. de Blasio’s campaign is phony,” Giuliani said at a stop in Staten Island. “This has been the whole rationale for his campaign, his stop-and-frisk … ‘The police department’s terrible. The police department’s awful. They’re stopping all these people for no reason.’ … The court of appeals has just basically said to him: that is a bunch of malarkey. I hope it had a dramatic effect on the race.”
Giuliani also demanded an apology from de Blasio on behalf of the NYPD, charging that the Democrat misled the public on what stop-question-and-frisk is about.
“For this man to campaign the way he did, to suggest they were engaged in unconstitutional conduct … I would, as the former mayor of the city, demand that Mr. de Blasio apologize to the police department for falsely suggesting that they engage in unconstitutional conduct,” he said.
At a rally on the steps of Brooklyn Borough Hall later Friday, de Blasio dismissed Giuliani’s demand for an apology.
“I’m not looking to him for advice on police-community relations,” he said.
Giuliani appealed to a 1990s theme of Staten Island as the lone conservative borough, which only agreed to remain part of New York City after Giuliani stabilized the crime statistics.
“I’ll remind the people of Staten Island: You wanted to secede. You wanted to leave New York City, things were so bad, you voted to secede because of the work of the administration he was a part of and he wants to bring back,” he said.
“So this would be a disaster for New York City. I don’t want people coming up to me six months from now saying, ‘Mayor, we made a terrible mistake. What are we going to do about our city?’ Because they are. Because crime is going to go up as dramatically as Joe predicts.”
It was the first time Giuliani campaigned for Lhota, after playing a large role in his primary campaign.
“I said to Joe when he decided to run, ‘I’ll support [you] or I’ll support your opponent, depending on which way helps you more,’” he joked.
De Blasio Says He Has a Morning Problem
Bill de Blasio admitted Saturday that he has a hard time waking up in the morning, a problem which sometimes keeps staff waiting for hours and campaign supporters wondering when the candidate will show up.
Arriving more than an hour late to a rally on the Upper West side that had been scheduled for 11:30 a.m., de Blasio said he had a “challenging night.”
“I got a call at five in the morning that threw off my sleep cycle,” he said. “But other than that, it’s all good. So I wouldn’t say I typically overslept, I’d say it was a divided sleep.”
“I am not a morning person,” he said. “I think we should reorient our society [to] staying up late, but I don’t think that’s happening right now.”
Lhota responded that “being mayor is a 24-hour a day job” and mayors have to be ready at all times of the day.
“The idea that he gets interrupted in the middle of the night, at 5 o’clock in the morning — about the time I get up every day actually — and he calls it divided sleep? A tale of two naps, that’s what he really meant,” Lhota said.
De Blasio’s admission came minutes after urging a different crowd to remain awake until the polls close Tuesday.
“I’d like to request: There’s really no reason to sleep in that time frame. I think a combination of espresso and Red Bull will take you all the way through. And people will admire you for it. They’ll say, ‘Well if they care that much, we better get out to vote,’” he joked.
NY Post, Daily News Divide Their Endorsements
The New York Post backed Joe Lhota’s mayoral ambitions while the Daily News cast their lot in a cautious editorial for Bill de Blasio, capping the major newspaper endorsements in the mayoral race.
The Post attacked de Blasio for criticizing stop-question-and-frisk, his opposition to charter schools, and his proposal to tax the rich to pay for free pre-K.
New Yorkers, the Post wrote, have “a choice between two profoundly different visions for this city. It comes down to this: While Joe Lhota seeks to build upon the key reforms of the past two decades, Bill de Blasio campaigns on a platform that calls into question almost every stride forward the city has taken since the 1970s.”
The News decried the low tone of the entire campaign, contrasting it with that of other former mayors, such as Fiorello LaGuardia, who “believed in tending to the poor and envisioned projects that would remake the city”; Ed Koch, who “rallied New Yorkers with entertaining pragmatism that forced the resistant forces of labor, Washington and bureaucracy into line and established budgeting standards that hold to this day”; Rudy Giuliani, who “channeled broad frustration with lawlessness, defied conventional wisdom that disorder was coded in the city’s DNA and bulldozed opposition to start the NYPD’s long, successful war on crime”; and Michael Bloomberg, who “leveraged results-oriented activism into the coin of the political realm: public confidence.”
“Now,” they wrote, “New York closes a mayoral contest in which neither candidate staked convincing claim to the trifecta of offering a vision, capturing the public’s imagination and possessing the savvy practicality to execute.”
Nevertheless, the News said they are endorsing de Blasio, though “with worrying reservations and strong prescriptions.”
“De Blasio must live by one rule: What works? Although lacking management experience, he has a nimble mind and is versed in city government. He has also been willing to reverse course to suit political needs. While this is not the most attractive quality, de Blasio must apply the same pragmatism to governing. … De Blasio’s potential to rise to that challenge is the critical factor for an endorsement extended with trepidation. Great good luck to all.”
Lawmakers Press for Change to Weekend Voting
New York lawmakers say voter turnout would increase if the laws were changed to allow weekend voting.
Rep. Steve Israel, state Sen. Tony Avella and Assemblyman Edward Braunstein want to change Election Day to the weekend after the first Friday in November.
Congress decided in 1845 that Tuesday made sense because it was the easiest day for farmers to get to the polls. Israel says times have changed. He says moving voting to the weekend would encourage more Americans to participate.
A group called “Why Tuesday?” is applauding the New York lawmakers’ stance.
The Weekend Voting Act would allow for national polls to be open from 10 a.m. Saturday to 6 p.m. Sunday in the 48 contiguous states.
Another wish of some lawmakers came last week as the Democrat-led Assembly introduced legislation to move the state’s primaries from September to June. Two years ago, the GOP-led Senate balked at the idea.
Currently, New York has two primary dates — a June date for federal primaries and a September date for state races. Assembly Democrats have wanted to move the state’s primaries to June after a federal judge last year stepped in and selected the June congressional date amid the legislative stalemate.
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver said establishing the fourth Tuesday in June as primary day for both federal and state offices would save New York about $50 million.
Critics have warned that the June date would fall right at the end of the legislative session, influencing the actions in Albany and hurting lawmakers’ ability to campaign since they are forced to be in session.
New York to Run Voter Hotline on Election Day
The state will operate a hotline for New York residents who have trouble voting on Tuesday.
Attorney General Eric Schneiderman says his Election Day hotline will help people facing language issues, polling place barriers and other potential civil rights problems.
Voters can report issues or problems at the polls to the attorney general’s hotline at 800-771-7755. Polls will be open from 6 a.m. until 9 p.m. Tuesday.
Schneiderman says his Civil Rights Bureau has fielded hundreds of complaints from voters since the hotline was launched last year.
De Blasio: If Elected, I Will Not Hire Lhota
Asked in a New York Times interview published last week if he would hire Lhota in his administration, de Blasio answered abruptly: “No. Next question.”
“Joe Lhota and I have very different values,” he told Politicker later following a rally in Lower Manhattan, “and I want people in my administration that share my values and my desire for progressive change in this city.”
Jessica Proud, Lhota’s spokeswoman, said that Lhota was not insulted; he wouldn’t hire de Blasio to work in his administration either.
And Lhota said that even if asked to serve he wouldn’t be open to serving under de Blasio.
“No, not all,” Lhota said. “I think his answer was appropriate, as was my answer.”
Lhota Predicts Wednesday Headlines: ‘Lhota Wins Upset’
Joe Lhota may be trailing his Democratic opponent by about 40 percentage points, but he is convinced that Wednesday morning’s headlines will say that he pulled an upset victory, similar to President Harry Truman’s holding up the “Dewey Defeats Truman” headline.
“You’re going to be pleasantly surprised tomorrow night,” Lhota promised host Mark Simone during a radio interview.
Asked if Lhota can name a single candidate who pulled a comeback that he would need to achieve in the next 24 hours, Lhota pulled out his history book.
“Yeah sure, you remember Harry Truman?” Lhota said. “He was down so significantly the pollsters stopped polling. No one in the world thought that he would be able to beat Tom Dewey. But he sure did. Newspapers were so brazen as to print headlines ahead of schedule saying that Truman had lost. There have been turnarounds like this.”
Lhota clarified in a different interview that he will “eke” out a victory over de Blasio.
“I’ve seen a groundswell of support in all five boroughs in this city,” he said. “I think people are going to be surprised tomorrow night. It will be a close race.”
De Blasio Gets Top Senate Backing for Tax Hike Idea
Days before the election, de Blasio received support for his signature tax raise proposal from a co-leader of the state Senate, giving critics a pushback for saying that Albany would never approve of it.
Should de Blasio win, Sen. Jeff Klein, leader of the Independent Democratic Conference, which runs the Senate together with the GOP, will push for passage of the city tax hike plan during next year’s state budget talks. The tax proposal is key to de Blasio’s campaign plank of ensuring free pre-kindergarten for all New Yorkers who attend public school.
“I think his proposal has a lot of merit,” Klein said. “I want to become the major advocate on behalf of it.”
De Blasio said he was “very gratified” to learn of Klein’s support.
“I welcome that,” de Blasio said in a radio interview.
De Blasio’s plan to raise taxes for five years on those making more than $500,000, Klein said, “is not taxing for the sake of just taxing. This is for a really important purpose.”
But Klein’s position puts him at odds with his Senate Republican partners and Gov. Cuomo, both of whom have said they want to cut, not raise, taxes next year.