New York Mayor's Race Enters Final Day

Nov 4, 2013
Originally published on November 4, 2013 2:11 pm

For the first time in 20 years, New York City is poised to put a Democrat in the mayor’s office.

The city’s Public Advocate, Democrat Bill de Blasio, is running against Republican Joe Lhota, who was formerly the chairman of the Metropolitan Transit Authority.

A New York Times/Siena College poll puts de Blasio well ahead of Lhota in tomorrow’s vote.

Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson talks with Errol Louis, host of NY1′s “Road To City Hall,” about how the Big Apple will change post-Michael Bloomberg, who has been mayor since 2002.


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From NPR and WBUR Boston, I'm Jeremy Hobson.


I'm Robin Young. It's HERE AND NOW. Across the country, candidates in several elections scheduled for tomorrow are scrambling to find last-minute votes. That includes the race that will decide who will replace Mike Bloomberg and become the next mayor of the country's largest city.

HOBSON: New York City's current public advocate, Bill de Blasio, is running as a Democrat.


BILL DE BLASIO: New Yorkers believe in big ideas, bold ideas, progressive ideas that move us forward. New York has led the nation...

HOBSON: Meanwhile, on the Republican side, there is the former chair of the city's Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Joe Lhota.


JOE LHOTA: Making sure that we create more jobs and expand our economy. We need to reform our education system so that children and grandchildren can get the best possible education. And as I've said over and over again, I'm not satisfied with where we are with crime today. It needs to still get lower.

HOBSON: Well, the latest poll from NBC 4 New York, the Wall Street Journal and Marist shows 65 percent of likely voters favor de Blasio, versus only 24 percent for Lhota. If he can win, he would be the first Democrat elected mayor since David Dinkins in 1989. For more on the race, we're joined by Errol Louis. He is the host of "Road to City Hall" on New York 1. And Errol Louis, why have voters - so overwhelmingly, it seems - thrown their support behind de Blasio?

ERROL LOUIS: Look, one way to ask the question would be: How come Democrats had not won? With a six-to-one registration advantage the Democrats have, how is it that, for the last 20 years, we've had Republican mayors? One explanation is that New Yorkers are just reverting to type, that they're just going to vote their party interests, which, for a long time, they didn't do.

Another explanation, of course, is that you've got a Republican national party that has really taken quite a lot of hits in the press and is very unpopular among New York voters. And to the extent that you have an R next to your name, if you're a Republican candidate, this is not a good time to be looking for votes in New York City.

HOBSON: Errol Louis, this is what the Wall Street Journal editorial page had to say. This is an editorial from October 29th. And it said, about the likelihood that Bill de Blasio is going to be the next mayor: The Big Apple is on the verge of electing a man whose explicit agenda is the repudiation of the conservative reforms achieved by a generation of city leaders from both parties, which transformed New York from a terrifying urban joke into the nation's municipal crown jewel.

How widespread is that view, especially among the business community in New York?

LOUIS: Well, if it were a widespread view, Joe Lhota would be doing a lot better. You know, that's the problem. He started out saying that the gains of the last 20 years under mostly Republican mayors have been welcome, but they are fragile, and that we don't want to undo them. And the voters, you know, they heard that argument, but they pretty much didn't buy that argument.

The bad old days that the editorial you just read reference are from 20 years ago. You know, something like 40 percent of the registered voter base was not here back when we had 2,000 murders a year, and we had all kinds of other problems. So they don't necessarily know what you're talking about when you say, hey, we don't want to go back to 1991.

Well, yeah, OK, fine. But for somebody who was in high school back then or somebody who was in elementary school back then or somebody who was living in another part of the country or maybe in college or something like that, it just doesn't resonate. And I think that's true for the business community, as well.

Well, and how much does it reflect what de Blasio wants to do? We know that he wants to increase the income tax on the top earners in New York City. What else does he want to do, and what about Wall Street? Does he have any plans for different policies than you would say, of course, Mayor Bloomberg has been quite friendly to the financial industry.

When it comes to the taxes, he wants to take the money that he would get from increasing the tax on the highest income-earners and devote it all to after-school and pre-kindergarten programs, on the theory that this is a way to give a real shot in the arm to kids, to really get them on their way learning, to keep them out of trouble if they're older kids, to help them get into the middle class, I guess, is the ultimate aim of all of that.

Whether or not he's going to get that done, whether or not he's going to be able to raise enough money to do it, whether or not it's going to happen in any kind of a timeframe that's relevant for somebody's who's serving a four-year term, those are all open questions.

When it comes to Wall Street, there's not a whole lot this or any other mayor could do. So, you know, when Bloomberg supported Wall Street, it was kind of more symbolic, in a lot of ways. I mean, you know, what Bill de Blasio has talked about that might get the attention of some of the financial community is that he has said when it comes to real estate and other tax-supported goodies - meaning lots of buildings go up all around New York, and many of them get tax breaks for doing so - he's basically said he's going to kind of look at those a little bit more closely, that he's not going to just approve any deal because a company says, well, if we don't get this deal, we're going to move across the river to New Jersey, or we might move to Connecticut or go down South.

What he has said is you've got to create the jobs that you promise, and if you don't, we're going to take back our subsidy. And that's tougher talk than the financial community is used to hearing, and I guess there's some nervousness in those quarters that not having a mayor who is explicitly and inevitably friendly to big business might be bad for business.

HOBSON: Errol Louis, if we are on the verge of seeing Bill de Blasio be elected mayor of New York City, what's going to be the biggest difference - do you think, having covered this campaign - between what we've had in New York for the last 12 years with Mayor Bloomberg and Mr. de Blasio?

LOUIS: The current mayor, Mike Bloomberg, has said that he wants to be considered a manager, that New York is like a business. The citizens are the customers. He's going to provide the best service at the cheapest price, and on and on and on. That notion of what the mayoralty is really neglects the symbolic side of it, the sense that people want to feel like the mayor has something in common with them. They want to feel like the mayor represents who they are and what they're about.

And that symbolic side of the office, I think, we're going to see in a much bigger way, compared to Mike Bloomberg. And of course, you know, there are those who are wondering, because Bill de Blasio has never managed anything remotely as large as Bloomberg LP - the current mayor's company before he became mayor - because he's never managed anything as big as the Metropolitan Transit Authority, which is what Joe Lhota used to run, that we may wish for a little bit less of the symbolic mayor and a little bit more of the efficient manager. But, you know, this is - these are the choices that voters had, and this is the way it looks like it's going to play out.

HOBSON: Errol Louis is host of "Road to City Hall" on New York 1. By the way, what are you going to rename your show after tomorrow?

LOUIS: Ah. On January 1st, the new mayor takes office, at which point we will revert to the name "Inside City Hall." We'll be reporting on all the commissioners and the politics and all of the fun that goes along with the new administration and the management of the city.

HOBSON: Well, Errol, thanks so much.

LOUIS: Thank you, Jeremy. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.