Who will succeed Bloomberg as NYC mayor?

6 min

As Bloomberg prepares to step down, and Weiner’s latest scandal kills his chances of a comeback, the NYC mayoral race is up for grabs. Here’s a peek at the main Democratic candidates, one of whom is likely to be the Big Apple’s next mayor.


As New York City’s Mayor Michael Bloomberg, a thrice-elected Republican-turned-Independent billionaire, prepares to clear out his office after 12 years on the job, all eyes are on his potential successors.

Despite the fact that they outnumber Republicans six to one in the city, Democrats have lost the last five mayoral elections (Rudy Giuliani served two terms right before the Bloomberg era).

But all indicators suggest that the Big Apple is poised to return to its liberal roots by choosing a Democrat on November 5.

Fittingly, then, the Democratic field has been the centre of attention, with Anthony Weiner’s latest “sexting” scandal shaking up the race; recent polls show former dark horse Bill de Blasio and Christine Quinn – who would be New York’s first female and lesbian mayor – tied at the top, with Bill Thompson in third and Weiner trailing at a distance.

Both parties will hold primaries on September 10, with the winner of each facing off on Election Day.

Here’s a look at the Democratic candidates to watch, a group of politicians as diverse as the city they hope to govern.

The disgraced: Anthony Weiner

Anthony Weiner
Anthony Weiner

It could have been the comeback of the year. But the 48-year-old former Congressman has plummeted in the polls following revelations that he once again engaged in extramarital “sexting”, despite vowing in 2011 that those days were over.

Seen as being slightly to the right of the other Democratic contenders, Weiner has tried to portray his rivals as ineffectual liberals ill-equipped to combat the economic inequality that has been one of the prevalent themes of the NYC mayoral election season thus far.

But despite pitching some bold policy ideas (a universal, city-subsidised healthcare system for all New Yorkers), Weiner will have a hard time winning back voters, many of whom regard his most recent indiscretion as the final straw in a career more notable for personal fiascos than political successes.

The flagging frontrunner: Christine Quinn

Quinn, the politically seasoned 47-year-old New York City Council speaker has been consistently strong in polling, and if she wins, she will be New York City’s first female and openly gay mayor.

Christine Quinn marching in New York City's gay pride parade earlier this summer (Boss Tweed via Flickr)
Christine Quinn marching in New York City's gay pride parade earlier this summer (Boss Tweed via Flickr)

Quinn is hoping to win Manhattan – where she resides with her wife – by drawing large numbers of women and gay voters. But her brash manner has earned her some unflattering press coverage, with a profile in The New York Times focusing on her hot temper and authoritarian style of management. Moreover, Quinn’s well-documented political pragmatism – she has a history of working closely with Bloomberg and notoriously opposed paid sick-leave legislation before finally endorsing it – has alienated some of the city’s true-blue progressives.

If she ends up losing the race, it will likely be because of a perception among liberals that she is all too willing to sacrifice left-wing principles in order to appease the business community.

The progressive: Bill de Blasio

This 52-year-old public advocate (an elected city official intended to serve as liaison between mayor and residents) and former regional urban development advisor under Bill Clinton is considered the most liberal candidate.

De Blasio with his wife and children (Bill de Blasio via Flickr, photo by John Caballero)
De Blasio with his wife and children (Bill de Blasio via Flickr, photo by John Caballero)

As such, de Blasio has presented himself as a sort of anti-Bloomberg, eager to improve the lives of the city’s less privileged dwellers. Two of his key proposals are free nursery school paid for by a tax rise on the wealthy and an end to the New York Police Department’s controversial “stop and frisk” programme (which allows officers to search people they believe are acting suspiciously, but has been criticised as unfairly targeting black and Latino New Yorkers).

De Blasio’s family background – his wife is African-American and formerly identified as a lesbian – has the potential to attract various constituencies, and he is currently enjoying a surge in the polls. He has also emerged as a celebrity favourite, winning endorsements from famous New Yorkers like Alec Baldwin, Sarah Jessica Parker, Susan Sarandon and Cynthia Nixon.

The underdog: Bill Thompson

Bill Thompson has tried to strike a more combative tone on the campaign trail recently (Edwin Martinez via Flickr)
Bill Thompson has tried to strike a more combative tone on the campaign trail recently (Edwin Martinez via Flickr)

The soft-spoken former NYC comptroller (chief fiscal officer), 60, had a surprisingly strong finish in the 2009 mayoral race, losing to Bloomberg by less than five percentage points.

That said, many chalked up Thompson’s solid showing to a wave of anti-Bloomberg sentiment. Now, the so-called “boring” candidate is trying to build a coalition including African-Americans, Latinos and Orthodox Jews, whom he has courted ardently. The fact that polls show a significant portion of the city’s black electorate backing de Blasio is a bad sign for the African-American Thompson. But Weiner’s dive in the polls has allowed Thompson to position himself as the alternative to frontrunners Quinn and de Blasio. In other words, stay tuned.

The outsider: John C. Liu

John Liu (Azi Paybarah via Flickr)
John Liu (Azi Paybarah via Flickr)

The feisty 46-year-old city comptroller has not been deterred by the current FBI investigation into his campaign finances. On the contrary, Liu has recently been as vocal as ever, hammering home a populist message with proposals – like raising the minimum wage to $11.50 an hour – aimed at boosting both his flailing poll numbers and his visibility.

Liu, who has had an openly contentious relationship with Bloomberg, benefits from considerable support among Asian and Muslim voters. But that probably won’t be enough for him to contend with his bigger-name, more popular rivals.

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