Bloomberg wins, but Thompson surprises with close finish
Mayor Michael Bloomberg was re-elected to a third term last night with a stunningly slim margin, just edging out city Comptroller Bill Thompson by five percentage points.
Bloomberg, 67, a billionaire businessman who spent at least $85 million of his own money to win a third term, had been ahead in most polls by double digits but in the end, he managed only a 51 to 46 percent victory.
Bloomberg during his victory speech just after midnight argued that the tough economy and a general anti-incumbent sentiment made for a “hard-fought victory in a very difficult year.”
“Tonight, throughout the nation, voters were very clear and some incumbents heard loud and clear that they’re tired of politics as usual,” he said. “New Yorkers have defied tonight’s trend.”
However, many political observers were caught off guard by how close the mayoral race was.
“[The Bloomberg campaign] should be embarrassed,” said Democratic political consultant Joe Mercurio. “If the Democratic Party had run a better campaign they could have blown him out.”
Thompson, who released a poll over the weekend indicating that the race was tightening, built his campaign around the anger voters felt over Bloomberg’s extension of term limits. The limits were approved twice by referendum.
“Your support, your enthusiasm, and your desire for change is what carried me to this point,” Thompson told his supporters last night. “This campaign was about not backing down in the face of a formidable challenge,” said Thompson in an address that carried the whiff of a victory speech.
The race turned especially negative in the final days, with Bloomberg flooding the airwaves with attacks on Thompson, which some speculated might have been an indication that the campaign was getting nervous.
Bloomberg, who became the fourth mayor to win three terms, has won plaudits for dropping crime rates and deft management of the city’s finances during his first eight years, despite recent fiscal troubles.
He won control of the schools early in his first term and made education reform one of his signature issues.