Watertown Daily Times | After primary, NYC mayor to focus on November

NEW YORK — Mayor Bill de Blasio appeared to be on his way to a decisive win on Tuesday in the Democratic primary in New York City, as he moved closer to securing a second term.

De Blasio was declared the winner by The Associated Press at 9:18 p.m. Eastern time, 18 minutes after the polls closed.

No major Democrat was willing to take on the incumbent mayor, and he faced a group of underfinanced, little-known rivals. As a result, the contest had all the urgency of a preseason football game, generating little interest among voters.

De Blasio will now focus on the general election, on Nov. 7, when he will face the Republican candidate, Nicole Malliotakis, an assemblywoman from Staten Island, and Bo Dietl, a former police detective running as an independent.

In the general election, the mayor will again enjoy significant advantages. Democrats outnumber Republicans by more than 6-1 among New York City voters who designated a party affiliation.

And in the most recent campaign finance report, de Blasio indicated that he had nearly $5 million in the bank. Malliotakis had just $220,000, and Dietl had $269,000.

De Blasio has received about $5 million in donations and $2.8 million from the city’s generous public financing program for campaigns, which gives candidates a 6-1 match for the first $175 contributed by New York City residents. And he stands to receive another sizable injection of matching funds before the general election. Malliotakis has not yet reached the fundraising threshold to receive matching funds; Dietl is not participating in the program.

On Tuesday, de Blasio bested his main opponent, Sal F. Albanese, a lawyer and former city councilman, and three others: Richard Bashner, a Brooklyn community board leader; Robert Gangi, a police reform activist; and Michael Tolkin, a technology entrepreneur.

In the only other citywide Democratic primary Tuesday, the public advocate, Letitia James, was a strong favorite to beat David Eisenbach, a Columbia University professor allied with Albanese. The winner will run in November against the Republican candidate, Juan Carlos Polanco.

The comptroller, Scott M. Stringer, a Democrat, did not have a primary challenger. He will run in the fall against Michel J. Faulkner, a Republican.

Political analysts played down the significance of what was expected to be low turnout Tuesday but warned that the mayor must now try to generate enough interest to avoid low turnout in November, which could suggest a lack of enthusiasm for his leadership and progressive policies.

“There is a danger that turnout can be low in November, and that’s what he has to be concerned about,” said Charlie King, a Democratic political consultant, pointing to disenchantment with de Blasio among some sections of his liberal base, as well as missteps and distractions that clouded some of the achievements of his first term.

“He’s got a good two months to begin to unclutter the minds of New Yorkers and adequately send a message of why he deserves another four years.”

Rick Fromberg, de Blasio’s campaign manager, said the mayor would emphasize his successes, including universal prekindergarten classes, continued reductions in crime and two years of rent freezes for tenants in rent-regulated housing.

“It’s a record, it’s an agenda that’s resonating with New Yorkers, and if we tell that story and express that vision properly, all those values, all those achievements, then we think Bill de Blasio will be the first Democrat to be re-elected mayor in New York in 32 years,” Fromberg said.

He said the mayor would also continue to position himself as the defender of New Yorkers against the policies of President Donald Trump on immigration and threats to cut funding for important urban programs. That will give him a cudgel against Malliotakis and Dietl, both of whom voted for Trump. Before the primary, de Blasio’s campaign was already sending emails tying Malliotakis to the president.

“He’ll keep pounding away at Trump to energize that base,” said William F.B. O’Reilly, a Republican political consultant, adding that de Blasio was also likely to stick to a typical incumbent’s strategy of ignoring his opponents whenever feasible. “He’ll try to stay mayor and not mayoral candidate to the best he can.”

When de Blasio ran in 2013 against the Republican Joe Lhota, he contrasted himself with the city’s three-term billionaire mayor, Michael R. Bloomberg, whom he cast as an elitist who was out of touch with much of the city. His slogan then was “A tale of two cities.” That message has transformed into this year’s slogan: “This is your city.”

Opponents have criticized de Blasio for his antagonistic approach to the president, saying they would emphasize trying to work with Washington; questioned his work ethic; and accused him of not doing enough to improve the city’s beleaguered subway system.

Malliotakis emerged as the lone Republican candidate after a wealthy real estate executive, Paul J. Massey Jr., dropped out of the race and Dietl botched his voter registration so that he could not run on either the Democratic or Republican lines.

For Malliotakis, regardless of her chances of winning, the simple act of running for mayor brings benefits, raising her profile, introducing her to Republican donors and making her a more formidable candidate in the future, should she decide to run for Congress or some other office.

Dietl has made himself the loudmouthed class clown of the mayoral campaign, labeling the mayor, who is nearly 6 feet 6 inches tall, “Big Bird” and heckling him at some of his events.

Asked about Dietl, Fromberg said the mayor’s campaign would stay focused on getting its message out.

“There’s going to be a lot of noise,” he said. “There’s going to be plenty of distractions that come from across the political spectrum.”

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