6 November 2013, 06:13

Democrat Bill de Blasio is elected mayor of New York City

Progressive Democrat Bill de Blasio has been elected mayor of New York City, replacing billionaire Michael Bloomberg, US media reported Tuesday.

"Thank you, New York City," de Blasio's campaign tweeted just after the close of polls, together with a photo showing the presumed winner together with his wife and two children.

The 52-year-old will succeed Bloomberg in January at the helm of the United States' largest city.
De Blasio promises a new style in a city transformed by 12 years of tough love under Bloomberg, who is stepping down after a record three terms.

He is one of the most progressive politicians in the country and left Republican rival Joe Lhota trailing in the dust by tapping into the worries of the economically vulnerable middle class.

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De Blasio, progressive Democrat who won New York

Bill de Blasio, who won a landslide victory as mayor of New York Tuesday, is a progressive Democrat who now faces a monumental task in governing the biggest US city.

By placing his black, former lesbian wife Chirlane and teenage children center stage, the 52-year-old public advocate connected to middle-class families and the city's diverse electorate.

His public sector career and progressive policies are the polar opposite of outgoing billionaire mayor Michael Bloomberg and sit at odds with the gigantic overt wealth on display in New York.

Making much of his "modest" home in Brooklyn's gentrified neighborhood of Park Slope, he presented himself as an ordinary guy determined to improve education and make housing affordable.

"My fellow New Yorkers today you spoke out loudly and clearly for a new direction for our city, united by a belief that our city should leave no New Yorker behind," he said late Tuesday.

The real work had just begun, he said, warning supporters to be under no illusions about the difficulty of tackling inequality.

"The problems we set out to address will not be solved overnight but make no mistake, the people of this city have chosen a progressive path," he said.

Born in New York in 1961, he was brought up in Massachusetts. He went to New York University and Columbia University, before joining city hall and giving his career to the public sector.

He has spoken about a difficult childhood as the son of an alcoholic, World War II vet of German background who walked out and later committed suicide after being diagnosed with cancer.

De Blasio is his mother's maiden name and in his acceptance speech he paid tribute to his Italian family, also speaking briefly in Spanish in a nod to his cross-roots support.

A towering figure physically at six foot five (1m95), he was a regional housing official under President Bill Clinton and a manager for Hillary Clinton's New York Senate race in 2000.

He sat on the city council for eight years and in 2010 was sworn in as public advocate, essentially ombudsman.

It is a background and style the polar opposite of outgoing Bloomberg, who liked to fly off to Bermuda by private jet for the weekends and who steps down after 12 years.

De Blasio has campaigned hard against the yawning gulf between rich and poor - "a tale of two cities" and for minority rights.

He promises to raise taxes on those earning more than $500,000 to fund universal pre-kindergarten education and after school programs.

He has criticized the wildly unpopular "stop and frisk" policy for unfairly targeting black and Hispanic minorities, which supporters say has driven down crime.

And he promises to build 200,000 new affordable housing units and grant extra school holidays for Muslim feasts. A year ago, few had heard of de Blasio. But he ran a flawless campaign that eventually won him the Democratic nomination under tough competition.

He has traded heavily on his family. Like the Clintons, he and his wife, Chirlane McCray, have run as a package. Poet, editor, feminist and activist, she is a constant fixture by his side.

Their 16-year-old son Dante, instantly recognizable by his halo of Afro hair, has been credited with helping to turn around the campaign with an emotive TV ad about how great his dad is.

After winning the Democrat primary, the entire family, together with 18-year-old daughter Chiara, were filmed doing a family "smackdown" dance in Brooklyn. His daughter has reached out to voters, reassuring them that her dad is not "some boring white guy."

The multiracial family struck a chord in a city of great ethnic diversity: 33.3 percent white, 25.5 percent black, 28.6 percent Hispanic and 12.7 percent Asian.

Analysts say de Blasio also oiled his victory by playing successfully to the Democrat city's fear of the Republican party, nationally in disarray, and its Tea Party movement.

Yet some are concerned that his ideals will be sacrificed to pragmatism, calling him a deft politician capable of bargainingHe has been criticized, for example, for flip-flopping over whether horse-drawn buggy rides through Central Park should be abolished to win support from campaigners.

There are also questions about whether he has the experience to lead a city hall staff of 300,000 and a budget of $72 billion. How successful he will be, New Yorkers are about to find out.

Voice of Russia, USA Today, CNN, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, CBS, New York Times, AFP, Reuters

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