Public Advocate Bill de Blasio won the most votes in the New York City Democratic mayoral primary on Tuesday but it was not immediately apparent whether he could avert a runoff, according to early results and exit polls reported by local media.
The winner needs at least 40 percent of the vote or will face the second-place candidate in the race of Democratic hopefuls to succeed three-term Mayor Michael Bloomberg in running the most populous city in the United States.
If DeBlasio does not get 40 percent, he could face a tough run-off against Bill Thompson who, analyists predict, is likely to pick up the bulk of the votes that went to Christine Quinn. Many think Thompson could be the ultimate victor if there is a run-off. He came within a hair of defeating Michael Bloomberg in 2009.
With about 25 percent of precincts reporting results, de Blasio had 39 percent over former city comptroller Thompson with 25 percent and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn with 16 percent, according to NY1 television.
On the Republican side, Joe Lhota, the former head of the city's mass transit agency and former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's deputy mayor for operations, had 50 percent of the vote with about one-third of precincts reporting, NY1 said.
Republican grocery chain billionaire businessman John Catsimatidis had 43 percent, the local television station reported.
Lhota faces an uphill battle against the Democratic nominee in the city of 8.3 million people, where Democrats outnumber Republicans six to one.
A poll cited by the New York Times also showed de Blasio, one of the more liberal candidates on the ballot, with a strong lead.
Thompson lost the 2009 race to Bloomberg, who has been mayor since January 2002 and is leaving office due to term limits.
Quinn, who would be the city's first female and openly gay mayor if elected, was seen as most likely to follow Bloomberg's moderate policies.
Former Congressman Anthony Weiner, who saw his lead vanish after news that his penchant for texting women lewd pictures of himself had not ended, was last among the major candidates with 5 percent in early results.
Weiner conceded the election this evening, saying, "We had the best ideas. Sadly, I was an imperfect messenger," according to USA Today reporter Catalina Camia on Twitter.
Weiner's wife Huma Abedin was not with him when he conceded.
Sydney Leathers, who came forward this summer to say she and Weiner had frequent sexually charged conversations online and over the phone, arrived at his primary night party at a midtown Manhattan bar, where he was noticeably absent.
"I'm here celebrating his impending doom. His loss, here at his victory party," Leathers said.
She called his campaign "embarrassing" and said he might have a political future "after he gets himself together."
"I mean, I'm one to talk," she said. "But he needs help."
The winner of the mayor's race in November will assume the helm of the nation's largest city at a critical juncture, as it experiences shrinking crime rates yet widening income inequality, and as the nearly completed One World Trade Center building symbolizes a new era after the terrorist attacks of 2001.
Bloomberg, the businessman Republican-turned-independent, is completing his third term. While the city's registered Democrats outnumber Republicans 6 to 1, the GOP's recent success in mayoral elections has been largely attributed to a crime epidemic, the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks or other extraordinary circumstances.
Nearly three-quarters of Democratic primary voters say the next mayor ought to move away from Bloomberg's policies, according to the exit polls.
And De Blasio, 52, has fashioned himself as the cleanest break from the Bloomberg years, proposing a tax on the wealthy to fund universal pre-kindergarten and changes to city police practices he says discriminate against minorities.
His rise was as sudden as it was unexpected. Not even two months ago, he was an afterthought in the campaign but surged in part thanks to an ad that centered on his interracial family, his headline-grabbing arrest while protesting the possible closure of a Brooklyn hospital and the defection of Weiner's former supporters in the wake of another sexting scandal.
"I'm a lefty and I've had enough of the righties," said Jessica Safran, a business consultant from the Boerum Hill section of Brooklyn who voted for de Blasio. "Even if de Blasio moves to the center if he gets elected, he'll be closer to the positions I want than the others."
De Blasio, who worked in Bill Clinton's White House and Hillary Rodham Clinton's Senate campaign before being elected to the city council and then public advocate, the city's official watchdog position.
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