NEW YORK — The race to succeed Mayor Michael Bloomberg is shaping up as a referendum on the 12-year legacy of the billionaire who guided the nation's biggest city through the aftermath of 9/11 and the meltdown on Wall Street.
The top vote-getter in Tuesday's Democratic primary, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, was the most vocally anti-Bloomberg of the major candidates, railing against the mayor's pro-police, pro-development, pro-business, pro-trickle-down politics.
On the Republican side, Joe Lhota, a one-time deputy mayor to Rudolph Giuliani, handily won his party's nomination after tying himself closely to many of Bloomberg's policies.
"It is clear that the narrative going forward is that this election is a verdict on Bloomberg," said Jeanne Zaino, a New York University political science professor.
Bloomberg, a Republican-turned-independent who made his vast fortune from the financial news company that bears his name, is leaving office after three terms.
The Democrat most closely allied with Bloomberg, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, was crushed in the mayoral primary, finishing a distant third amid polling that showed that New Yorkers are eager for a change after more than a decade with Bloomberg in charge.
But those same polls showed that most New Yorkers still generally approve of Bloomberg's tenure.
"If you were dropped into the Democratic primary from space, you'd think that voters simply hated Bloomberg," Zaino said. "It's a more complex picture than that."
Whether de Blasio will, in fact, be the Democratic nominee in the November election remains to be seen.
With 99 percent of precincts reporting, he had 40.3 percent of the vote, just above the 40 percent needed to win the nomination and avoid an Oct. 1 runoff against second-place finisher Bill Thompson.
Election officials said that it will be at least Monday before all votes, including absentee ballots, are counted.
Neither de Blasio nor Thompson addressed the election on Wednesday, as both followed city tradition by abstaining from campaigning on Sept. 11.
De Blasio ran as a Bloomberg antagonist, putting the fight to end economic inequality at the heart of his campaign and accusing the mayor of creating a "tale of two cities" by favoring real estate developers and Wall Street.
With far greater clarity than his Democratic rivals, he positioned himself as an opponent of the New York Police Department's stop-and-frisk program of aggressively questioning people deemed suspicious.
The program's critics said it unfairly targeted minorities, while its supporters – including Bloomberg – credited it with helping to drive crime down to historic lows.
When a federal judge ruled stop-and-frisk was being conducted improperly, Blasio got far more of a lift than Quinn or Thompson.
Bloomberg himself underscored the differences between himself and de Blasio in a New York Magazine interview published last week.
He said de Blasio was running a "racist" campaign by highlighting his interracial family.
And Bloomberg ripped de Blasio's "tale of two cities" theme, saying of the rich: "We want these people, and why criticize them? Wouldn't it be great if we could get all the Russian billionaires to move here?"
During the primary campaign, de Blasio consistently painted a possible Quinn administration as the equivalent of a fourth Bloomberg term.
Quinn embraced many the mayor's signature policies, backed his police commissioner and allowed the city charter change that enabled Bloomberg to run for a third term in 2009.
"At that time, when she was making that calculation, Bloomberg was still pretty popular," said Andrew White, a scholar at The New School.
Lhota, whose party is outnumbered by Democrats 6-to-1 in the city, is trying to project an aura of stability to independents, moderates and business leaders wary of de Blasio's fiery rhetoric.
He has ardently defended stop-and-frisk, refused to raise taxes and pledged to continue Bloomberg's tough rhetoric with unions.
Lhota has said repeatedly that he will seek Bloomberg's endorsement. Bloomberg did not publicly back anyone during the primary campaign.
But Ester Fuchs, a Columbia University professor who was an adviser to Bloomberg from 2001 to 2005, cautioned Lhota against running a campaign based on preserving the status quo.
"I see a huge pitfall for Lhota with a message that simply says `more of the same,'" she said.
Associated Press writer Jennifer Peltz contributed to this report.
NY1 reports that Board of Elections will do a recount to determine whether De Blasio got 40%— Dan Amira (@DanAmira) September 11, 2013
An exuberant de Blasio spoke before supporters Tuesday evening, offering "my gratitude" and stating that "I will never forget what you have done...you have made this campaign a cause, and I thank you for elevating it to that level."
With 96 percent of precincts reporting and Bill de Blasio hovering microscopically above the 40 percent threshold needed to secure the Democratic mayoral nomination, it appears that votes are poised for a recount. Bill Thompson has stated that he is not conceding tonight and is reportedly chanting "three more weeks!" with supporters.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn officially conceded the Democratic nomination for mayor in a speech at the Dream Hotel with wife Kim Catullo by her side. For a full list of live results, click here.
SCOTT STRINGER!!! This man will classily carry our city's purse like an awesome boyfriend. So happy, and proud of my @audreygelman.— Lena Dunham (@lenadunham) September 11, 2013
.@JoeLhota4Mayor on @deBlasioNYC "Tale of 2 Cities" theme: "Nothing more than class-warfare, an attempt to divide our city"— Emily Ngo (@epngo) 4 years ago
According to HuffPost's polling data, Scott Stringer has earned the Democratic nomination for New York City comptroller, with 93 percent of precincts reporting. Eliot Spitzer is said to be delivering his concession speech shortly.
Reporter with NBC Ch4, Shimon Prokupecz, says Weiner gave him the finger from car as he drove away.— Ruby Cramer (@rubycramer) 4 years ago
GOP mayoral nomination called for Joe Lhota, beating out rivals John Catsimatidis and George McDonald.
"We had the best ideas. Sadly, I was an imperfect messenger" - @anthonyweiner conceding— Nick Corasaniti (@NYTnickc) 2 years ago
Anthony Weiner says his family is with him. He's speaking alone on the stage though.— Mara Gay (@MaraGay) 4 years ago
Weiner conceding.— Nick Confessore (@nickconfessore) 2 years ago
Squadron leading Tish James right now by NINE votes, with 45 % of vote in. So close! http://t.co/m8EVYFOLRf— laura (@nahmias) September 11, 2013
Even anti-Quinn gays were telling me she'd get 60% of gay vote. For her to only pull out 39% (as exit poll says), is astounding. #NYC2013— Mike Signorile (@MSignorile) September 11, 2013
6% of precincts are now reporting, and de Blasio is *under* 40% in each of the 5 boroughs.— Taniel (@Taniel) 5 years ago
Stu Applebaum acknowledges that Quinn may have benefited from stressing the historic aspects of her candidacy more— Jill Colvin (@colvinj) 4 years ago
Bill Thompson's campaign manager is explaining why nobody knows who Thompson is even though he's been around forever.— Josh Barro (@jbarro) 5 years ago
De Blasio leads in virtually every demographic cut of NYC electorate, according to exit polls. http://t.co/KeELJ0yQ9W— Jim Roberts (@nycjim) September 11, 2013
JUST IN: More exit polls just came in from afternoon: Trend holds: de Blasio still 43, Thompson 25, and Quinn 18. #nyc2013— carolynryan (@carolynryan) September 11, 2013
At de Blasio watch party, everyone goes quiet to listen to Obama's Syria speech. http://t.co/HOcGBUlrNp— Jason Horowitz (@jasondhorowitz) 3 years ago
BREAKING: Bill de Blasio 43, Thompson 23, and Quinn 18 in exit polls. #nyc2013— carolynryan (@carolynryan) 5 years ago
Tick, tock. Polls just about to close. At which point there will be a whole bunch of new info coming in @WNYC @datanews— Andrea Bernstein (@AndreaWNYC) 4 years ago
Playing at de Blasio hq - Springsteen anti-wealth anthem "We Take Care of Our Own"— maggie haberman (@maggiepolitico) 3 years ago
.@BillThompsonNYC is expected to arrive at election party at 11 pm. #nyc2013— Azi Paybarah (@Azi) 5 years ago
Sydney Leathers is en route to Anthony Weiner's victory party to meet her former sexting pal for the first time.— Mara Gay (@MaraGay) September 10, 2013