AP"Racist" campaign accusations aside, Public Advocate Bill de Blasio's apparently winning coalition in yesterday's Democratic primary for New York mayor was remarkably nonracial. He won white and Hispanic voters and tied former Comptroller Bill Thompson, who is black, among black voters.
Indeed, no matter how you slice the city demographically, de Blasio won most groups.
That doesn't mean racial politics in New York are over. They show up clearly in the coalitions de Blasio's opponents managed to hold together while losing.
The best example is John Liu, the City Comptroller who never recovered from the fact that two officials from his 2009 campaign were convicted of fraud in federal court. Liu won just 7% of the vote. But according to exit polls, he pulled 44% of "all other races" voters, most of whom are Asian. WNYC's election results map shows heavily Asian neighborhoods like Chinatown, Sunset Park, Elmhurst and Flushing backing Liu. He got 80% of the vote in a couple of election districts in Chinatown.
Bill Thompson didn't get the support he was expecting from black voters, but he held together a couple of white ethnic coalitions. First, he soundly carried ultra-Orthodox Jewish bastions in Brooklyn, including southern Williamsburg and Crown Heights.
He also won a lot of voting districts in places like Howard Beach, Breezy Point and the south shore of Staten Island—middle to upper-middle class, white, suburban-feeling areas. Basically, if it's the sort of place where Archie Bunker might have lived, Bill Thompson probably did pretty well there. That's partly because Democratic primary voters in these areas are likely to be public employees, or relatives of public employees, and Thompson had endorsements from the United Federation of Teachers and many public safety unions.
The irony of this is that Bill Thompson tended to do well in the same sort of neighborhoods that Mitt Romney won in last year's presidential election. For Romney, Orthodox Jewish Crown Heights was a little dot of red surrounded by a sea of blue—predominantly African-American Brooklyn neighborhoods that voted overwhelmingly for Obama. Thompson had an experience like Obama's, except he ended up with the dot instead of the sea. (Thompson did better in black neighborhoods in Queens, where incomes are higher.)
As for one-time frontrunner Christine Quinn, while she posted a stunningly bad 15% citywide, she still managed to win many of Manhattan's upscale, white neighborhoods. S he carried every voting precinct in what's historically the city's toniest residential district—the Upper East Side between Lexington Avenue and Central Park, from 59th to 96th streets. She also did well in Midtown.
De Blasio beat Quinn with affluent voters overall, and she got crushed in some left-wing expensive neighborhoods, like Greenwich Village. But in neighborhoods that are wealthy, white and establishment-oriented, Quinn often won. These are the sorts of places where Bill de Blasio's "two New Yorks" message probably sounded more accusatory than uplifting. They just don't contain a ton of voters.
While those groups broke for de Blasio's opponents, he ended up winning with most everybody else. Six weeks ago, I would have said a de Blasio victory in the primary was the one thing that would open up space for a Republican general election victory, since de Blasio had defined himself as the left-wing candidate in opposition to a mayor still supported by much of the city. But de Blasio's success in building such a broad primary coalition and wooing groups you might expect to find him anathema (such as real estate developers) makes me think he is essentially unstoppable in a general election.
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