Brooklyn wins big at the primaries

Democratic Primary for Mayor of New York City
Bill DeBlasio

There’s no question who won the Sept. 10 primaries — Brooklyn!

Residents of the County of Kings won three of the hottest races in the city, with Park Sloper Bill DeBlasio claiming the Democratic nomination for mayor, Brooklyn Heights boy Joe Lhota grabbing the Republican line, and Carroll Gardens state Sen. Daniel Squadron and Fort Greene Councilwoman Letitia James heading into a runoff for Public Advocate.

DeBlasio — who appeared to have won a runoff-proof 40 percent of the vote Tuesday night — came out on top of a pile of candidates hailing from the Borough of Churches, including former Bay Ridge Councilman Sal Albanese, former Sheepshead Bay Congressman Anthony Weiner, and Bedford-Stuyvesant-born former Comptroller Bill Thompson.

Democratic Mayoral race

Public Advocate Bill DeBlasio, standing at six-foot-five-inches-tall, came out on top in the Democratic primary election for mayor Tuesday night.

The 52-year-old Park Sloper squeaked past the magic 40 percent of the votes needed to win the nomination without a runoff, coming in just 0.2 percent over the threshold, but former comptroller Bill Thompson finished second with 26 percent of the votes and has demanded a recount.

For now, it appears as though DeBlasio has avoided a runoff, but as of early Wednesday thousands of paper ballots still needed to be counted, which could take the city’s Board of Elections several days.

If it does come down to a runoff, DeBlasio will face off against Thompson in a runoff election to be held on Oct. 1. Thompson narrowly lost to Mayor Bloomberg after winning the party’s nomination in 2009.

DeBlasio gave no sign of heeding Thompson’s stubbornness, though. The former Park Slope councilman threw an unabashed victory bash Tuesday night at The Bell House in Gowanus, marking the first time that a mayoral candidate has ever held an election party in the industrial neighborhood.

“Let’s recommit ourselves to the movement that got us here to begin with — a commitment to giving every child of our city the chance they deserve, a promise to speak the truth no matter who tries to twist our words or dampen our spirits,” DeBlasio said to a throng of supporters.

The former Park Slope councilman staged a remarkable last-minute comeback, shooting from near the bottom of the polls to head and shoulders above the rest of the pack in a matter of weeks.

State Sen. Daniel Squadron got 33 percent of the Democratic vote for Public Advocate
Daniel Squadron

Thompson, the former deputy borough president, said that he was not ready to concede until every vote has been accounted for.

Longtime favorite Council Speaker Christine Quinn took 15.5 percent of the votes, Comptroller John Liu brought in 7 percent, and twice-disgraced former Sheepshead Bay congressman Anthony Weiner had a mere 5 percent.

Republican Mayoral race

Joe Lhota, a deputy mayor under Mayor Giuliani and former chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, defeated two Manhattanite opponents — supermarket mogul John Catsimatidis and homeless advocate George McDonald. Lhota won with nearly 53–percent of the vote, compared to Catsimatidis’s roughly 40–percent and McDonald’s approximate seven–percent. Lhota vowed to keep the city on its current course as mayor.

“With the right leadership, we can accomplish great things. New York City will continue to be the City of Opportunity where all dreams come true,” the candidate posted on his Twitter account. “Together, we will keep New York City moving forward.”

The race turned nasty during the final weeks. Catsimatidis, founder of the Gristedes grocery chain, launched a massive ad campaign attacking Lhota for voting to raise train and bus fares and bridge tolls as chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and for referring to Port Authority police as “mall cops” at a debate. Catsimatidis also put out a mailer criticizing Lhota for challenging an elderly Holocaust victim to a fight at a Metropolitan Transit Authority board meeting.

Lhota struck back with a mailer slamming Catsimatidis for backing former Mayor David Dinkins over then-United States Attorney Rudy Giuliani in the 1989 mayoral race. Giuliani has appeared in ads defending Lhota from Catsimatidis’s charges. Catsimatidis struck again on the eve of the election, blaming Lhota for technical problems with first responders’ phones on September 11th, and for placing the Office of Emergency Management inside the World Trade Center complex despite the bombing in 1993.

Comptroller race

In the citywide comptroller race, departing Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer beat ex-governor Elliot Spitzer 52 percent to 48 percent, with 98 percents of precincts reporting. This was one of the night’s few upsets, since Spitzer, perhaps the only disgraced politician running a competent campaign this year, had led Stringer by 19 points as recently as last month, according to Quinnipiac University.

Public Advocate race

Letitia James garnered 36 percent of the vote and Daniel Squadron racked up 33 percent in the Democratic primary for public advocate, knocking out fellow candidates Reshma Saujani, Cathy Guerriero, and Sidique Wai — but ensuring that the pair would face off against each other in a runoff election. Each appeared confident of victory in next month’s rematch.

We are overcome: Steve Levin won big in the Battle of the Steves and supporters loved him for it.
Photo by Elizabeth Graham

“Over the next 21 days, we’ll keep talking about my record — about results, reform, and integrity,” said Daniel Squadron, currently a state senator, in a written statement on Tuesday night. “And we will talk about my plan to make the Public Advocate’s office essential to our city, getting results for New Yorkers who need them.”

Departing Councilwoman Letitia James took to Twitter after the results came in to direct followers to donate to her runoff fund.

33rd Council District race

Steve Levin, the incumbent candidate for the 33rd district city council seat, came out on top in the Battle of the Steves, besting Democratic challenger Stephen Pierson and assuring himself a second term.

Levin, who lives in Greenpoint, won handily with more than 70 percent of the vote.

On paper, Levin and Pierson came down on the same side on many of the issues. At a debate last month, they echoed each other on many issues, including trash, education and small business support.

Pierson started off with a strong attack campaign against Levin, honing in on his ties to disgraced former Assemblyman Vito Lopez, for whom Levin used to be chief of staff. Levin countered by pointing out that Pierson, who is a former professional poker player, has never voted in a local election.

When pressed to pick, voters in Levin’s district opted for the Steve they know.

The vanquished Steve said he will continue to fight waterfront development and to advocate around issues he took on as part of his campaign.

“I want to continue to be involved in the causes I’ve been involved with, especially in Greenpoint,” Pierson said.

Asked if he would run again, he said, “That’s the furthest thing from my mind.”

Joe Lhota is the Republican nominee for mayor.
Photo by Stefano Giovannini

35th Council District race

Letitia James may not be a sure bet in the public advocate runoff, but there is no going back to her old job in the 35th Council District.

Laurie Cumbo, the founder of Fort Greene’s Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts and a professor at Pratt Institute, beat out four candidates in the Tuesday night primary to claim the council seat serving Clinton Hill, Fort Greene, and parts of Crown Heights, Prospect Heights, and Bedford-Stuyvesant. Cumbo took 35 percent of the vote, winning by 1,800 votes over Ede Fox and Olanike Alabi who tied for second, taking 26 percent each.

Cumbo said she admires James, who she calls an “awesome and dynamic leader,” but that things will be different in her version of Fort Greene.

“The district is a very different district,” she said. “It’s going to require a very different type of leadership.”

Cumbo said that she will be more developer friendly, in contrast to James’s opposition to the controversial Atlantic Yards mega-project.

“It would be almost malpractice to be a councilmember and to have no relationship with the developers who are building this community,” she said.

The victor added that, while talking to developers would be a key feature of her tenure, she will not forget to include community voices. Lowering crime will also be a focus, she said, and she pledged to seek seats on the education, arts and culture, and finance committees in the council.

Cumbo’s campaign had received a reported $207,000 in campaign support from the real estate industry–backed political action committee Jobs For New York by Sept. 6. She repudiated the anonymous support, though not before the group poured $80,000 into her bid.

The races weren’t the only rough part of this election day. Our sister publication the New York Post reported the city received thousands of calls about jams and breakdowns in the decades old-lever voting machines — which the city brought back this year after a raft of complaints about the new electronic ballot-counters. Lhota himself had to fill out a paper ballot due to problems at his voting place in Brooklyn Heights.

— With Natalie Musumeci, Danielle Furfaro, Jaime Lutz, and Colin Mixson

Hugs: Laurie Cumbo embraces a well-wisher after news of her win came in to the Prospect Heights club Milk River, where her election party ran into the night.

Reach reporter Will Bredderman at wbredderman@cnglocal.com or by calling (718) 260-4507. Follow him attwitter.com/WillBredderman.