Nothing embodies the spirit of Winners and Losers more than a competitive primary election. Beginning at 6 a.m. on Tuesday, everyone was on an even playing field, rhetoric and prognosticating be damned. Alas, New York voters did not hold up their end, as a disengaged electorate took their apathy to new extremes with pathetically low turnout. However, when the polls closed, a batch of Democrats and Republicans emerged for the final stretch run of what has been a grueling, bizarre, but often captivating 2013 election cycle. With that, our expanded primary election edition of Winners & Losers:
Anybody But Quinn - What began with one man, Donny Moss, became a movement. There’s a lot of blame to go around for the Speaker’s epic collapse in Tuesday’s primary, but it was helped along every step of the way by a determined, close-knit crew that came to be known simply as ABQ. With Stephen Nislick and Wendy Neu’s financial heft behind these indefatigable activists, the frontrunner crumbled, tumbling to a once unthinkable third place finish.
The de Blasios – Yes, Bill came away with the big prize Tuesday night, winning 40 percent of the vote (give or take) and all but securing the Democratic nomination for mayor, but he should give his son Dante a raise in his allowance or extend his curfew for months for helping his old man get there. Dante’s afro became the icon of the de Blasio campaign in recent weeks, and voters seemed impressed by the articulate young man in his television advertisement for his father. While we hope that one day Dante can return to the cozy anonymity most 16-year olds enjoy, we haven’t seen the last of him, or the rest of the close-knit de Blasio clan, in this campaign.
Gale Brewer – By all accounts, New York City Councilwoman Gale Brewer simply outworked her opponents in the race for Manhattan BP, and in the end she was able to coast to victory with almost 40 percent of the vote in a competitive four-person field in which the candidates differed little on the issues. The result was less of a surprise after she got the backing of The New York Times–a virtual seal of approval for a large part of the Manhattan Democratic electorate–which wrote that she was “too rare a public official to retire.”
George Gresham – By George! Hindsight is always 20-20, but back in the spring when 1199 SEIU decided to endorse Bill de Blasio for mayor, the candidate was battling for third place in the Democrat field and the only hopefuls getting serious attention were Christine Quinn and Anthony Weiner. But Gresham, the president of the huge health workers union, entered into the fray, making calls for his candidate and rallying the troops. In the end, 1199’s support proved critical as other unions overlooked de Blasio. No wonder de Blasio saluted Gresham as an “architect” of his campaign.
Jobs For New York - If there were any doubt that the post-Citizens United era had come to New York City politics, it was put to rest by Jobs For New York PAC, bankrolled with millions of dollars by the Real Estate Board of New York, backed by unions like UFCW Local 1500 and the Mason Tenders, and masterminded by Parkside Group. Rather than directing its fire power at the citywide offices, JFNY threw its significant heft behind a host of Council candidates across the five borough, sending a clear message to 51 folks that they better listen carefully to the real estate industry or there will be consequences.
Joe Lhota – Republicans and business leaders are feeling a whole Lhota love for the GOP nominee for mayor of New York City. Democrats have waited two decades to finally get their preferred candidate into City Hall, but the GOP has an able and competent candidate to continue its streak in Lhota, who was Rudy Giuliani’s top deputy and brings plenty of financial experience to the table, both in the public and private sectors. You might even say he’s not your average Joe.
Douglas Schwartz – Bill de Blasio’s quick rise in the polls in the Democratic race for mayor, including a Quinnipiac poll that showed him surpassing the key 40 percent threshold needed to avoid a runoff, certainly raised some eyebrows among the city’s political observers, especially given the sometimes spotty public poll results in past cycles. But when the actual results came in late Tuesday, the Q poll was vindicated, with de Blasio winning just over 40 percent (at least for now) and Thompson’s 26 percent only about a percentage point off the pollster’s results. And Schwartz, Quinnipiac’s polling director, also was close to the mark in the city comptroller’s race.
Scott Stringer – It’s hard to tell whether Stringer was David or Goliath in his race for New York City comptroller against former Gov. Eliot Spitzer, but regardless he managed to eke out a victory against the steamroller and set himself up to cruise into office in November. While some may argue that Stringer’s tactics were less than savory—his campaign team made Spitzer’s wealth and personal infidelities a major issue—a win is a win, and Stringer is not only poised to run one of the most powerful offices in the city, but also put himself in a prime position to be the heir apparent to whoever becomes mayor in November—the position he wanted in the first place.
Ken Thompson - District attorneys don’t lose in New York City. No sitting DA in Brooklyn had been knocked out in over a century, and Charles “Joe” Hynes had already been on the job for 24 years. But the conventional wisdom was all thrown out the window on Tuesday when Ken Thompson, a former federal prosecutor, not only beat the long-standing DA, he thrashed him by 10 points, scoring one of the most spectacular victories in recent borough history. Honorable mention for Thompson’s victory goes to his newbie consultants, Metropolitan Strategies, who relentlessly pushed his case throughout the campaign.
Lovely Warren - The citywide races may have sucked up all of the attention, but the biggest upset of Tuesday’s primary election happened upstate where Rochester City Council President Lovely Warren defeated incumbent Mayor Tom Richards. To illustrate just how shocking Warren’s victory was, a recent poll showed Richards ahead of Warren by 36 points, but thanks to low turnout, Warren emerged victorious. Isn’t that lovely?
Michael Bloomberg – With only a few months left on his third term, Mayor Michael Bloomberg has become politically toxic. His recent criticism of Bill de Blasio might have boosted de Blasio above the 40 percent he needs to avoid a runoff. And even though his lieutenants are out in full force trying to protect his legacy, it looks like Hizzoner is not going to have the influence on this election cycle he had hoped–both in the city and possibly nationally, especially after two Democrat state senators in Colorado were recalled for supporting gun control measures despite an influx of money from Bloomberg’s PAC.
The Dailies – The city’s big newspapers just aren’t what they used to be—and we’re not talking about dwindling circulation and declining revenue. The New York Times, the Daily News and the Post all endorsed Council Speaker Christine Quinn, once the frontrunner for mayor, and still she didn’t even get into a Democratic runoff. Of course, the Times did back winning candidates in Gale Brewer and Melinda Katz, and the Grey Lady’s pick for public advocate, Daniel Squadron, could still win his race. Joe Lhota also won support from all three dailies—then won the GOP mayoral primary—but he’ll have a tough fight between now and November.
Sara Gonzalez – There are few certainties on Election Day in New York City, but one rule of thumb is that incumbent City Council members don’t lose. Well, in that case Gonzalez managed to pull off the virtually impossible as the only incumbent to be ousted this year, being defeated handily by her young challenger Carlos Menchaca. Gonzalez will exit the Council having accomplished little of note, with a poor attendance record and only four bills introduced since 2011, so calling Menchaca’s victory an upset might be a mischaracterization. Nonetheless, it is embarrassing for an establishment-backed candidate to lose to an unknown. Adios!
Charles Hynes – Hynes had a heckuva a run. For the past 24 years he has been the district attorney of Kings County, and until this year he had enjoyed high approval ratings and little controversy. But 7 was not a lucky number for Hynes as he was defeated soundly in his bid for a seventh term in office after a punishing campaign in which he was battered with accusations of giving preferential treatment to the Orthodox Jewish community and using bullying tactics to win some murder convictions. Sometimes you just hang on too long.
Micah Kellner – Kellner would have coasted to victory this week–if not for a late-breaking scandal involving multiple claims of sexual harassment. So The New York Times, which broke the story, endorsed one of his opponents, and the assemblyman had the misfortune of representing a neighborhood that religiously reads the Times. And Kellner didn’t just lose–now he has to go back to Albany.
Vito Lopez – In the end practically everyone in the city opposing his candidacy was too much to overcome. Lopez hoped to slink into the City Council after he resigned from the Assembly in disgrace amid a wave of sexual harassment allegations. But he faced a barrage of attacks from campaign mailers and negative press that convinced many of his longtime supporters to abandon him. It’s hard to image Brooklyn politics without him. We’ll just have to get used to it.
Michael Mulgrew – For all his bluster that the United Federation of Teachers is about “making a mayor,” it’s been some time since Mulgrew’s union backed a winner—and Tuesday’s primary was the latest example. Mulgrew and the UFT threw their support behind Bill Thompson, citing his record as a friend to teachers, but it proved to be a severe miscalculation as Thompson fell short of first place in the Democratic field. Mulgrew may be urging Thompson to wait until every ballot is counted before officially bowing out, because a Mayor de Blasio or Mayor Lhota might be a less favorable negotiator when the teachers ask for retroactive raises at the bargaining table, but it appears that Thompson is on the cusp of succumbing to the mounting pressure on him to call it quits.
Christine Quinn – No wonder Quinn’s campaign wouldn’t publish her campaign schedule. No other candidate had a group of dedicated activists following her around and antagonizing her throughout the mayoral campaign, an early bad omen. In the end, the proud Council Speaker was seen as an extension of the Bloomberg legacy in a change election–and as people started paying attention, her frontrunner status evaporated. Better send those #Quinning t-shirts to the Salvation Army.
SKDKnickerbocker - SKD has had many big wins in the past and is sure to have many more in the future, but on Tuesday they were at the helm of the two biggest losses in the state: Christine Quinn and Tom Richards’ campaigns. Sure, the mega-consulting company won with Scott Stringer, but it’s hard to take credit for a victory, when every elected official, union, and advocacy group in the city is on your side.
Bill Thompson – Not only is he a loser–he’s a sore loser. Thompson only mustered a quarter of the primary vote, but as of Thursday evening, he was asserting that he would wait for every vote to be counted. We have to ask, where’s the rest of Bill’s support going to come from? He failed to secure a majority of the black vote, his union allies are deserting him and the establishment is rallying around de Blasio. He even lost his home district. Soon Thompson will recognize that he has no path to victory, so expect the good party soldier to hang it up any day now.
Tags: 1199 SEIU, Anthony Weiner, Anybody But Quinn, Bill De Blasio, Bill Thompson, Carlos Mechaca, Charles Hynes, Christine Quinn, Citizens United, Daily News, Daniel Squadron, Dante de Blasio, Donny Moss, Douglas Schwartz, gale-brewer, George Gresham, Jobs For New York, Ken Thompson, Lovely Warren, mason-tenders, Melinda Katz, Metropolitan Strategies, Micah Kellner, Michael Bloomberg, Michael Mulgrew, New York Post, New York Times, Parkside Group, Quinnipiac Poll, Real Estate Board of New York, REBNY, Sara Gonzalez, Scott Stringer, Senior Citizens, SKDKnickerbocker, Stephen Nislick, Tom Richards, UFCW Local 1500, UFT, Vito Lopez, Wendy Neu