The polls may have closed Tuesday night in the New York City mayoral primary but for the Democratic candidates, the race is hardly over.
With winner Bill de Blasio earning just barely over the 40 percent of votes needed to avoid a run-off, all eyes are on the runner-up Bill Thompson for what his next move might be.
Power brokers in the party are encouraging Thompson to bow out, while he optimistically awaits a recount that may not be final for another week to ready a run-off campaign most think he’ll lose.
A long wait for official results
“What happens next is a part of the process for every election,” Valerie Vazquez, communication director for the NYC Board of Elections, told theGrio. “On Friday, we will begin opening the lever machines at each of the four borough voting facilities and will get official counts. We expect that to be done by Sunday.”
Vazquez says the process will continue well into next week as the Board of Elections waits until all paper ballots — oversees, absentee, affidavit and military ballots — are received and convenes a bipartisan team Monday to begin counting them. Affidavit ballots are still being counted but the board has already received about 19,000 absentee, special and military ballots. Vazquez says about 16,000 of those are from Democratic voters.
“Ultimately this is the process for every single election,” she says. “Certain races are closer than others but, at the end of the day, every vote counts.”
Vazquez says the Board of Elections hopes to have the process completed sometime next week, when they’ll present a report to be certified by Board of Elections commissioners.
If necessary, a runoff would be held Oct. 1.
A history of troubled Democratic primaries
In 2005, Democrats were in a similar situation. Fernando Ferrer had earned 39.5 percent of the vote in unofficial tallies for the Democratic primary. In second place with 29 percent was Anthony Weiner, who waited two days to concede. Ultimately, Ferrer lost to incumbent mayor Michael Bloomberg for his second term.
On the other hand, in 1997, Al Sharpton forced a runoff. Ruth Messinger got 39 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary and Sharpton had earned 32. After days of tension within the party, the race was canceled when a recount proved Messinger had indeed hit the 40 percent mark. Messinger went on to lose to incumbent Mayor Rudy Giuliani.
Pressure on Thompson to concede
Regardless of the final tally, influential members of the Democratic Party are already encouraging Thompson to concede the race for the sake of party unity, according to a Wednesday report by the New York Times. Democratic officials and leaders don’t expect Thompson can raise enough money to fund a runoff against de Blasio and are eager to mount a campaign against Joe Lhota, the Republican nominee. With a united party, they hope to elect a Democrat as mayor for the first time since 1989.
“I’m sure there is considerable pressure for Thompson to drop out,” says David Birdsell, dean of the School of Public Affairs at Baruch College. “Already, former Governor David Paterson has cautioned Thompson about the potential political and personal cost of continuing to run even if he qualifies for a run-off.”
Birdsell says, ultimately, Thompson has to consider the political landscape and put his choice to stay in the race or drop out in the context of the breadth of de Blasio’s support Tuesday.
De Blasio won by a strong margin and, according to exit polls, led many of the demographics Thompson would need in a runoff. De Blasio won white and Hispanic voters — tying with Thompson for the black vote, but winning with black women. He won voters in every age bracket, income level, borough, of every religion and gender.
“Bill Thompson has to question where are the people he can rally to help him flip the demographics and win,” says Birdsell.
When reached for comment, the Thompson campaign said the candidate has no intention of conceding the race and will wait for the Board of Elections’ recount.
“Our number-one focus is on making sure every vote is counted,” said Thompson’s communications director, John Collins, in a statement to theGrio.
Follow Donovan X. Ramsey at @iDXR