New York to usher in left-wing progressive Bill de Blasio as mayor

Bill de Blasio has put his multiracial family at the forefront of his campaign and vows to fix the widening gap between rich and poor

PUBLISHED : Monday, 04 November, 2013, 6:06am
UPDATED : Monday, 04 November, 2013, 12:47pm

Left-wing progressive Bill de Blasio is poised to secure a landslide victory in New York's mayoral elections tomorrow after executing a near-flawless campaign.

De Blasio, whose public sector background and policies sit uneasily with the gigantic wealth of the establishment, appears certain of election victory, possibly by a historic margin.

By placing his black, former lesbian wife and teenage children centre stage, he appears to have connected to ordinary middle-class families and a vastly diverse electorate, if his mammoth poll leads are anything to go by.

New Yorkers voted for outgoing mayor Michael Bloomberg three times in a row, but now look set to elect a candidate who could not be more different in background or style than the billionaire incumbent.

Analysts say de Blasio offers voters a package they relate to, leaving his Republican rival Joe Lhota trailing a distant second.

He has campaigned hard against the yawning gulf between rich and poor - "a tale of two cities" or "the 99 per cent" against the 1 per cent - and stands up for minority rights.

De Blasio promises to raise taxes on those earning more than US$500,000 to fund universal pre-kindergarten education and after-school programmes.

He calls for reforms to the "stop and frisk" policy, which critics say unfairly targets black and Hispanic minorities, but which supporters say has driven down crime.

And he promises to build 200,000 new affordable housing units and grant two extra school days off for the main Muslim festivals.

"Yes, they are progressive [ideas], yes, they are bold," de Blasio told supporters during a campaign stop in Manhattan's Upper West Side on Saturday.

"New Yorkers believe in big ideas, bold ideas, progressive ideas that move us forward. New York has led the nation."

Unchallenged now, he was late to emerge as the Democratic frontrunner after lesbian City Council speaker Christine Quinn's campaign faltered and Anthony Weiner became embroiled in a sexting scandal.

He has traded heavily on his family.

Like the Clintons, he and his wife, Chirlane McCray, have run as a package. Poet, editor, feminist and activist who famously spurned his initial advances, Chirlane is nothing if not tough.

Their 16-year-old son Dante, instantly recognisable by his father's smile and a halo of Afro hair, has featured prominently in TV ads telling voters how great his dad is.

The multiracial family has struck a chord in a city of great ethnic diversity: 33.3 per cent white, 25.5 per cent black, 28.6 per cent Hispanic and 12.7 per cent Asian.

De Blasio has spoken candidly about his difficult childhood as the son of an alcoholic second world war veteran who walked out and later committed suicide after being diagnosed with cancer.

In contrast to Bloomberg, he makes much of his ordinary credentials and "modest" home in Park Slope, gentrified Brooklyn.

TheNew York Times endorsed him last month for giving a voice to New York's poor.

Analysts say de Blasio has oiled his path by playing successfully to the Democratic city's fear of right-wingers and the Tea Party movement.