NEW YORK — The race to become New York City's next mayor narrowed Monday as the runner-up in last week's Democratic primary ended his campaign and endorsed Bill de Blasio, the liberal public advocate who has cast himself as the anti-Michael Bloomberg.
But Bill Thompson, who captured just over 26% of the vote in the Sept. 10 primary, did not go out with a whimper as he announced his withdrawal at a news conference outside City Hall. Thompson, facing his second failed attempt at the mayor's office, lashed out at the Board of Elections for taking days to count all the primary ballots, saying it made it impossible to campaign for what might have been a Thompson-De Blasio runoff on Oct. 1.
"In the greatest city in the world, in the greatest democracy on Earth, we ought to be able to count all the votes," said Thompson, who ran against Bloomberg in 2009.
Tens of thousands of votes — including absentee ballots and paper ballots cast by voters who encountered malfunctioning voting machines — have not been counted and are not expected to be tallied until next week.
"For all we know, given the Board of Elections, they may not finish counting the paper ballots until the runoff, or until after it's over, or until a few days before. Under those circumstances, it is impossible to even campaign, let alone offer a meaningful choice to Democratic voters," said Thompson.
Thompson was the only African American candidate in a field that included former Rep. Anthony Weiner, who was forced to resign his congressional seat in 2011 in a sexting scandal, and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who hoped to become the city's first female mayor and first openly gay mayor as well.
Both Thompson and De Blasio had trailed Quinn at the start of the campaign, but Weiner's implosion and Quinn's close association with Bloomberg helped catapult them to the front-runner spots. Both won Democratic support by criticizing the police department's stop-and-frisk crime-fighting tactic, which targets mainly black and Latino youth. Both also said the that under the billionaire Bloomberg, wealthy white New Yorkers had benefited at the expense of others.
De Blasio ended up with about 40% of the vote — the minimum needed to avoid a runoff — though he could drop below that number once the last paper ballots are counted.
Even with the final results not clear, Thompson had been under pressure to cede the ballot spot to De Blasio as Democrats plot to win back the mayor's office. The last time a Democrat was elected mayor of New York was in 1989, when voters chose David Dinkins.
The city is heavily Democratic, but high crime and the crumbling economy were seen as helping usher in Rudolph Giuliani, who served from 1994 to 2001. Bloomberg, also promising safer streets and economic growth, won as a Republican and later switched his party to Independent. He has served three consecutive four-year terms.
At the news conference, leading Democrats, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo, stood behind Thompson in a show of party unity, underscoring Democrats' desire to defeat Republican candidate Joseph Lhota.
"What Bill Thompson is saying today is that he's going to put aside his own personal ambitions, his own personal hopes, his own personal ideas in honor and in respect of that shared vision," said Cuomo.
De Blasio stepped up and gave Thompson a hearty hug after Thompson announced he was supporting his former rival. De Blasio faces Lhota — the former Metropolitan Transportation Authority chief and the deputy mayor under Giuliani — in the general election Nov. 5.
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