NEW YORK (AP) — New York City's wild mayoral primary campaign hurtled to the voting booth Tuesday as New Yorkers begin the process of replacing the man who has led their city for 12 years.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg never offered an endorsement in the race, but the campaign has been defined by his legacy. The Republican mayoral hopefuls are largely promising to maintain his policies, while the Democrats have criticized the police department's treatment of minorities and said he favored big business over the middle class.
Their front-runner, public advocate Bill de Blasio, is pitching himself as the cleanest break with the current administration. And while just weeks ago his campaign was an afterthought, he now has a legitimate shot of surging right past the 40 percent mark that would avoid a runoff three weeks from now.
"He's the candidate that represents the most change," said Joshua Bauchner, 40, an attorney who voted in Harlem for de Blasio.
In a Quinnipiac University poll released Monday, de Blasio was the choice of 39 percent of likely Democratic voters. If no one reaches 40 percent, the top two finishers advance to an Oct. 1 runoff.
De Blasio's rise was as sudden as it was unexpected. He benefited from placing his interracial family at the heart of his campaign, connecting with voters over the need for NYPD reforms, and by drawing away voters from Anthony Weiner supporters following the former congressman's latest sexting scandal.
If de Blasio's support holds, the other spot in the potential runoff appears to be a matchup between City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and former comptroller Bill Thompson.
"I think she's got the experience from working with Bloomberg," said Lupe Moreno, 65, a real estate broker, who voted in Harlem for Quinn.
Quinn, who is bidding to become the city's first female and first openly gay mayor, led the polls for most of the year but has seen support disappear as her rivals have repeatedly linked her to the bitter debate to let Bloomberg run for a third term in 2009.
The mayor's opponent that year was Thompson, who stunned the political world by nearly upsetting the billionaire incumbent. The race's lone African-American, Thompson has said he is counting on winning the bulk of black and Latino voters to propel him to the runoff.
On Tuesday, Harlem voter Joe Beverly said he would not decide between Thompson and de Blasio until he was in the booth.
"Two very good candidates," said Beverly. "The most important issue to me is city economics and the disparity, the tale of two cities, rich and poor; stop and frisk the way the police act, and the future of the city."