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Americas

Democrat De Blasio set for mayoral win as NY votes

© Photo: AFP

Text by Sophie PILGRIM

Latest update : 2013-11-05

New Yorkers vote for a new mayor on Tuesday in what is expected to be a landslide win for popular Democrat Bill de Blasio (pictured), as former business magnate Michael Bloomberg bows out after two terms.

New Yorkers are heading to the polls on Tuesday to choose between a tax-friendly Democrat and a tough-talking Republican to lead the city as Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s 12-year tenure comes to an end.

Polls predict Democrat Bill de Blasio to win by a landslide as Republican Party candidate Joe Lhota looks set for disappointment with only a quarter of voters planning to back him.

Hovering in third or fourth place until August, when his popularity eclipsed that of former Democratic favourite Christine Quinn, de Blasio has since maintained an increasingly impressive lead and is expected to win by an historic 45 points according to a New York Times/Siena College poll published last Monday.

Despite his overwhelming lead, the 52-year-old New York public advocate (the elected official who liaises between the mayor and the public) spent the last day before the poll on a frantic three-borough trail.

“Together we will make this a city for everyone again,” he said at a community centre in the Bronx on Monday. “The way that Mayor Bloomberg did things is not the only way to do things. I assure you.”

De Blasio has driven home his promise of “change” – a dangerously tired slogan but one which he has made his own – and managed to convince New Yorkers that he can modernise the city after 12 years of a popular, but out-of-touch, Bloomberg.

“Joe Lhota has offered no vision of change, and that’s part of why I think the voters have been so cool to him,” he said on Monday.

Poles apart

A self-described social democrat, de Blasio has called for a tax hike on incomes over $500,0000 from 3.9% to 4.4%, money with which he says will be used to provide every child in the city with pre-school services.

Lhota has dismissed the plan as “a tax in search of an idea” and attacked de Blasio for supporting “reckless” government spending. One of Lhota’s favourite slogans on his campaign trail has been: “We don’t have a revenue problem, we have a spending problem”. Despite his largely progressive policies for a Republican, he is an open sympathiser of the Tea Party.

In recent weeks he has focused on what he lambasts as a soft-handed policing approach from de Blasio, suggesting violent crime will sky-rocket if the Democrat is elected. Crime in New York has plummeted under Bloomberg more dramatically than any other metropolitan area in the US.

But Bloomberg’s policies have proved controversial. One of De Blasio’s key promises is to look into police ‘stop and frisk’ searches, which he says are racially biased. Lhota, who served as deputy mayor under no-nonsense Republican Rudy Giuliani, stands by them as an effective crime-cutting policy.

Just about the only two things the pair agree on is getting rid of horse-drawn carriages and increasing bicycle lanes.

End of Bloomberg era

Bloomberg’s ambitious administration has transformed New York into a clean-cut, smoke-free and bicycle-friendly city, making the grimy crime-riddled metropolis of the 1990s seem like a distant nightmare.

But critics accuse former businessman Bloomberg, who maintained a cosy relationship with Wall Street after leaving for the Town Hall, of allowing the gap between rich and poor to widen under his tenure, especially in poor areas like Harlem.

Both candidates have pledged to change that, but Lhota’s voice has gone largely unheard in a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans six to one. In a New York Times poll published last week, 55% of voters said they felt Lhota was a “typical Republican” and only 32% felt he was a “different kind of Republican”.

Date created : 2013-11-05

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