New Yorkers begin voting after volatile primary race for mayor

New York City voters began deciding Tuesday who should become their next mayor after a volatile primary campaign that touched on everything from civil rights to kittens, with no shortage of scandal mixed in thanks to the candidacy of disgraced former Rep. Anthony Weiner.

The big question to be answered in this primary is whether any of the Democrats will win 40% of the vote to avoid a runoff next month before the general election in November. The most recent polls indicate that Bill de Blasio, the city’s public advocate, could do just that if he’s able to win over Democrats who remain undecided.

That would mark a startling change in fortunes for the onetime clear front-runner, City Council speaker Christine Quinn. Quinn, who is hoping to become the first woman and the first openly gay mayor of the nation’s largest city, had enjoyed a perch at the top of the polls for months, but that began changing in May when Weiner announced his candidacy.

Quinn’s fortunes have fallen further as a result of Democratic voters’ interest in the New York Police Department’s stop-and-frisk policy, which opponents such as de Blasio say is a racist system that subjects black and Latino young men to police harassment.


A federal court judge ruled in a class-action suit in August that the tactics used by police were unfair, and she ordered an independent monitor to oversee changes. And while Quinn has said she disagrees with the manner in which the policy has been practiced, she never went as far as de Blasio in blasting both it and its main supporter, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly.

Quinn also has suffered from her close association with New York’s outgoing mayor, Michael Bloomberg. Her support for extending mayoral term limits allowed Bloomberg to run for a third term in 2009, something that Quinn’s opponents constantly hammered away at during debates.

The latest poll from Quinnipiac University, which was released Monday, gave de Blasio 39% support among Democratic voters, with 8% still undecided. In second place was the former City Comptroller, William Thompson, with 25%.

Quinn had 18% support, and Weiner was in fourth place with 6%.


All of the candidates portrayed themselves as champions of the middle-class and dedicated to creating jobs, better schools and more affordable housing in this famously expensive city, where the average apartment rent is more than $3,000 per month.

But each had unique advantages and disadvantages.

Weiner surged to the front of the race in May when he emerged from political exile two years after resigning his congressional seat after admitting to a series of sexting relationships with women other than his wife. For awhile, it seemed as if he and Quinn would be fighting it out in a runoff.

But Weiner sank quickly after admitting that he had carried on more online lewd relationships after his resignation and after he claimed to have gone through rehab.


De Blasio began climbing in the polls after his first TV ad, which emphasized his multiracial family -- de Blasio is white and married to a black woman. The ad featured his teenage son, Dante, and no doubt struck a chord with voters who saw in Dante an example of an innocent youth who could be caught up in stop-and-frisk because of his skin color.

Thompson ran against Bloomberg in 2009 and lost by less than 5 percentage points. He has targeted Quinn for supporting the extension of term limits, which Thompson says enabled Bloomberg to continue policies that hurt the poor and middle-class. Polls show Thompson, the only black candidate, with substantial support from black and Latino voters.

Also running in the Democratic field is John Liu, who would like to become New York’s first Asian American mayor. He has 4% support in the latest Quinnipiac poll, followed by former City Councilman Sal Albanese.

Two Republicans are vying for a spot on the general election ballot, and the front-runner is the former chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, Joe Lhota. Lhota was credited with steering the city’s vast subway, bus and other public transit systems through the devastation of Superstorm Sandy. He also is a staunch advocate of the Police Department and of its policies on stop-and-frisk.


But lately, he made headlines for questioning the wisdom of shutting down one of the city’s subway lines for two hours while officials rescued a pair of kittens stuck on the tracks.

That prompted pushback from the Democrats and from Lhota’s Republican rival, businessman John Catsimatidis, who in the past has referred to himself as “the cat man” because of the spelling of his name.

Since the kitten kerfuffle, Catsimatidis has made the most of the issue by urging New Yorkers to “vote for Cats.”

The subway shutdown last month, and the flurry of debate surrounding it, prompted Lhota in his final debate with Catsimatidis last Sunday to declare: “I am not the anti-kitten candidate.”


The polls opened at 6 a.m. and close at 9 p.m. EDT.


Florida man tricked pregnant girlfriend into taking abortion pill

George Zimmerman’s wife tells police he punched her dad, had gun


Ohio man indicted after confessing on YouTube to drunk-driving crash

Follow L.A. Times National on Twitter

Twitter: @tinasusman