It was close. Closer than it had any right to be. There is no reason that there should only be a five-point spread when the odds were so far against Bill Thompson in the New York City mayoral race. Mayor Michael Bloomberg outspent Bill Thompson by almost 15 to 1. That is, Bill Thompson spent less than $10 million to Bloomberg’s almost $150 million.
We were barraged by what seemed to be never-ending advertising in this campaign, and Bill Thompson’s character was assaulted by those very same ads. But Thompson never lost his focus, never lost his drive. He remained upbeat and optimistic and focused on the issues facing New Yorkers: housing affordability, childcare and access to good, intellectually challenging schools for the children of our community.
And even though Bill Thompson lost in the end, he really was a winner in every other sense of the word. Bill Thompson was the only Democrat really willing to take on the mayor. He did not let Bloomberg’s billions and the establishment that said Bloomberg could not be challenged stop him. He said, “Yes, we can,” even when the rest of the Democratic political establishment said, “Let’s just sit this one out.”
Politics is about money and votes. And while the Thompson campaign was woefully underfinanced–he was abandoned by the big New York donors and some very key unions–he managed to proceed, despite the odds. The unions that stayed with him–TWU and DC 37–were enthusiastic and committed.
And while most of the news media had written him off months ago, refusing to hear his voice or message, there were a few independent publications, El Diario and this paper, the Amsterdam News, that heard and reported his message. We questioned the polls on this page, saying that they often fail to reach out to our communities, undercutting support for candidates looking for strong Black or Hispanic support. We knew that the election was not a forgone conclusion, and we urged you to ignore the polls and exercise your right, your privilege to vote. And many of you did.
It was close. It was so close that, in fact, many of the talking heads, the so-called “experts” on TV, did not know what to make of it. They could not understand how the poll numbers could be so off. They did not understand how at 10 p.m. the count was 49 percent for Bloomberg to Thompson’s 48 percent–a one-point race.
The mayor’s team and the pollsters completely misread the pulse of this city. A 5 percent difference between the candidates, when one candidate has invested $100 million–and millions more buying the endorsements of groups and ministers–is no referendum on a two-term mayor’s popularity or policies. Thompson comes out of this as the strongest Democrat in the state. No other Democrat has even come close to standing up to such a $100 million assault. The Bloomberg campaign was the largest, privately financed campaign in history and the largest non-presidential campaign ever. Bill Thompson stood up to the assault with grace, dignity and honor.
With that being said, it is time to regroup, reassess and recharge. Four years is not that long a time. And four years from now, the Wednesday after the election will have a different color, a different outcome.
“The work we started during this campaign doesn’t end tonight. In fact, it is just the beginning.” That is what Bill Thompson said last night.
And in response to that, we say, “Go for it. RUN, BILL, RUN.” Thompson 2013!