Why Bill de Blasio became New York mayor

Bill de Blasio celebrates his election triumph with his family. Reuters

Three months ago, Bill de Blasio was trailing in fourth place in the crowded Democratic race to become the party’s candidate in the New York’s mayoral election. Yet on Tuesday night the 52-year-old public advocate swept to one of the largest victories in the city’s electoral history. This is how he managed it.

1) He played the the “Tale of Two Cities” card – the wealthy and less well off – to great effect. He promised to raise taxes on those earning more than $500,000 a year to pay for pre-school education – a policy President Barack Obama supported. Despite this, according to an exit poll in the New York Daily News, he still won among voters earning more than $100,000.

2) After 12 years of Michael Bloomberg in City Hall, New Yorkers wanted their city to move in a new direction. Polling by Edison Research showed three-quarters of voters were fed up with the current state of the city and 85 per cent of these voted for de Blasio. The fact that several of de Blasio’s Democratic opponents had supported Bloomberg’s successful campaign in 2008 to overturn the two-term rule also helped him portray him as a clean break from the past.

3) An attack on police policies, especially the deeply unpopular “stop-and-frisk”, resonated loudly. His stance helped him gain momentum in the polls when a judge ruled in August that “stop-and-frisk” discriminated against racial minorities. An appeals court overturned the decision last week but by then de Blasio was the frontrunner. He also promised to replace Ray Kelly as police commissioner.

4) The family. De Blasio’s wife, Chirlane McCray, is black and their 16-year-old son Dante captured headlines – in a positive way for his father’s campaign – when he appeared in a campaign advert. The Twitter hashtag #GoWithTheFro – a reference to Dante’s hairstyle, became a big hit. De Blasio won among Whites, Blacks and Hispanics.

5) His opponent. Joe Lhota, a former head of the Metropolitan Transport Authority and deputy mayor under Rudy Giuliani, was underwhelming. The lack of a Democratic mayor for 20 years showed that the city has been more than happy to vote for Republicans and independents – as Bloomberg became. But Lhota’s campaign failed to take off and in the run-up to voting, according to local media, even some traditional supporters deserted him.