By Agence France-Presse
New York’s Bill de Blasio on Tuesday became the first Democratic mayor in 32 years to cruise to re-election in America’s financial capital, a progressive politician riding a wave of disgust for Donald Trump.
The former city councilor from Brooklyn quashed his Republican challenger, 36-year-old state assembly member Nicole Malliotakis, in the largely Democratic city where a woman has never served as mayor.
With 90 percent of votes counted, he was propelled into office for another four years, on a commanding lead of 65.5 percent compared to 28.7 percent for Trump-voting Malliotakis, The New York Times reported.
Even with a low turnout, that was no mean feat in the most populous US city, where the left-leaning de Blasio presides over an annual budget of $85 billion, a payroll of 295,000 and 8.5 million New Yorkers.
The vote was seen as a ringing endorsement for de Blasio’s anti-Trump stance in a city where 80 percent of the electorate voted for Hillary Clinton and Trump, a real-estate Manhattan billionaire, is despised.
“Tonight, New York City sent a message to the White House,” de Blasio told his victory party in Brooklyn.
“Our message was this: you can’t take on New York values and win, Mr president. If you turn against the values of your hometown, your hometown will fight back,” he said to cheers and applause.
Since Trump swapped Fifth Avenue for the White House, the mayor has emerged as a strident opponent, fighting his attempts to restrict immigration, repeal Obamacare and exact tax cuts on the wealthy.
With a fresh victory in hand, de Blasio pledged to continue his progressive agenda.
“We’ve got to become a fairer city and we’ve got to do it soon and we’ve got to do it fast,” he said. “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”
He has won praise for achieving his signature campaign promise of launching universal pre-kindergarten education for four-year-olds, and already rolling out a phased induction of three-year-olds.
He has pledged to impose a millionaire’s tax to fix the city’s decrepit subway. The economy is doing well and crime is at record lows, yet enthusiasm for the man has always been lackluster.
“He ain’t the greatest but we have to have a Democrat,” said voter Peter Schnieder, 71, in de Blasio’s home district of Park Slope, an uber wealthy, progressive enclave of Brooklyn.
The mayor, physically imposing at six foot five (nearly two meters) has been criticized for schlepping out to his Brooklyn gym, lateness and for lacking charisma of his billionaire predecessor Michael Bloomberg.
Despite investigations into his fundraising, no charges have been brought. An early confrontation with police — having warned his biracial son to take “care” with officers, has long since dropped off.
De Blasio lacks a cozy relationship with Wall Street — his politics too center-left for comfort when it comes to the wealthiest powerbrokers, and he has come under fire over the rising homeless population.
Yet the mayor has consistently defended immigrants, and in a city where 38 percent of the population is foreign-born, that counts. He was also bolstered by strong support among Latinos and African Americans.
“We may not have won this race but we have made our voices heard,” said Malliotakis, the daughter of Cuban and Greek immigrants.
Besides the mayoral election, two gubernatorial elections also took place Tuesday, in what could be bellwethers of sentiment a year after Trump’s election and a year before the 2018 mid-terms.
In Virginia, Democratic Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam defeated his Republican rival Ed Gillespie in the southern battleground state, a rejection of Trump’s policies and his scorched-earth 2016 campaign.
With a Democrat also projected to win the governor’s mansion in New Jersey, replacing outgoing Trump ally Chris Christie, the results are being interpreted as a revival of political fortunes for the party.
“I bring you tidings of joy this evening because America got a little fairer tonight, America got a little bluer tonight,” de Blasio said.
Ed Koch was the last Democratic incumbent mayor to win re-election in New York. De Blasio’s two immediate predecessors were the Republican-turned independent Bloomberg and Republican Rudy Giuliani.