After their debate on Tuesday, the mayoral candidates, Mayor Mike Bloomberg and City Comptroller Bill Thompson, were evaluated by a poll conducted by WABC, who covered the event. It showed Bloomberg won handily by 14 percent over Thompson with a tally of 44 to 30 percent. Twenty-six percent of those polled were uncertain of the winner.
That double-digit spread matched Bloomberg’s lead in another independent poll conducted recently by Quinnipiac University, which showed the mayor bested the challenger by an 18 percent margin.
“Now, we’ve all seen polls in the past, their wild swings, and they can be incredibly inaccurate,” Thompson told the AmNews a day after the debate. “None of this bothers me because I’ve had an excellent reaction from people on the street. They are excited and appear to be optimistic, so the polls don’t bother me at all.”
Thompson’s conclusions about the “wild swings of polls” is borne out by Mark Green’s bid for mayor in 2001, when he led by double-digits only to lose by three points to Bloomberg, who spent $73 million for his first victory.
“And when it doesn’t come out as predicted by the pollsters, they have to scramble to explain what went wrong,” Thompson added.
When asked if there was anything he wanted to say during the debate and didn’t, Thompson was effusive: “I wish I had more time to talk about jobs and job creation, and the need for more affordable housing, but it was going back and forth too much and I would have preferred there had been more of discussion on these issues.
“Affordable housing, education for all our children, particularly a change in curriculum, these are issues that face our neighborhoods each and every day, and I wish I had more time to really discuss,” Thompson continued.
Closing the budget gap was another item Thompson believed could have been given more serious discussion. “I put some proposals forward and the mayor hasn’t put any of them forward,” he said. “We are all worried about this gap and that’s why I felt it was an issue that deserved more time.”
Last week, President Obama endorsed Thompson, though without mentioning his name, and this fact was not mentioned during the debate. “By election day, next Tuesday, everyone will know that the president endorsed me,” Thompson chuckled. “No, I didn’t get a chance to mention it last night, but you have to find the right time and place to bring this out. Between now and next week, everybody will know he has endorsed me.”
Similarly, Thompson was asked about the late-hour endorsement from City Council Speaker Christine Quinn. “There are endorsements that will be coming out in the next few days, and they should help to build momentum, so it’s just not one endorsement but constant endorsements that provide the momentum,” he explained.
If there is any consistent message from him and his campaign, it’s to make sure people turnout for the vote on Tuesday, Thompson repeated. “What voters should understand is that they have a real choice in this election. They can go down the same path they’ve been on for the last eight years that has led to a 15-year higher unemployment, that’s led to more than a million middle-class New Yorkers fleeing the city, that’s led to a countless number of homeless families–these are some of things I want voters to understand. They need to know they have some options.”
There are reports that a low turnout on Tuesday will favor Thompson. “You just don’t know,” he responded. “I don’t know if a low turnout favors or scares me.”
According to a few pundits who watched and later evaluated the debate, both candidates were wrong and right about certain issues. One commentator observed that Thompson was not exactly accurate in his remark about the flight of the middle class from the city and failed to compare that to the influx of immigrants.
“Sure, there are a number of people who have moved into New York City,” Thompson began, “but what the recent report that came out is pointing to is that the people who are coming in are making less money…and with their lower salaries that can’t afford to pay the high rents. What we’ve seen under the Bloomberg administration is that the jobs at the top might have been great and the jobs at the bottom might have been great, but the jobs in the middle have been declining, and that’s why I worry about where the city is going. This also lowers the tax base.”
How about the fact that Rudy Giuliani is solidly on board the Bloomberg bandwagon? “It’s not just that Giuliani is on the Bloomberg bandwagon,” Thompson replied, “it’s the comment that he made.” Giuliani, speaking in Brooklyn last week to a group of Orthodox Jews, said he was concerned that the city might be returning to 1993 with the election of Thompson without mentioning his name.
Both Giuliani and Bloomberg are playing the “politics of division and the politics of fear,” Thompson said. “For me, this was offensive to all New Yorkers.”
Thompson expanded on the notion of returning to those days before 1993 and more explicitly to the tenure of David Dinkins, noting that the city’s first Black mayor made a number of contributions. “Even so, Giuliani was not trying to bring back positive memories. He was trying to bring back negative ones,” Thompson said.
The mayoral challenger said he was surprised to learn that Bloomberg, through his accountant, had contributed $26,000 to Cory Booker, Newark’s mayor, which many opponents view as paying for Booker’s endorsement. “I’m not sure what to make of it,” Thompson said.
But he certainly knew what to make of Bloomberg’s statement during the debate asserting that Thompson give back campaign donations from investment managers who do business with the city. “Why don’t you give back the money?” the mayor said. “It looks terrible, even if it’s not, and most people would think it is.”
“It’s amazing that a guy who has spent an obscene amount of money, who, as the Times reported, is spending a million dollars a day or $40,000 an hour, trying to buy the votes of the people of New York City is ridiculous, and he knows it is,” Thompson asserted. “Yes, he got his line, but it doesn’t mean anything.”
What appears to mean something very real for Thompson is that “eight is enough,” that Bloomberg changed the rules to make it possible for him to seek a third term. Thompson also took umbrage at Bloomberg’s ongoing talk about his police commissioner, Ray Kelly, who Thompson said he would replace if he wins the election.
“Remember Bloomberg’s first choice for police commissioner was Bernard Kerik,” Thompson snapped. “Well, if that had been done, they would have to be getting their police commissioner out of jail.” Kerik has been indicted and is being held in the Westchester jail awaiting trial for making false statements to White House officials vetting him for the secretary’s seat at the Department of Homeland Security in 2004.
And what is the first thing Mayor Thompson would do upon getting the key to Gracie Mansion? “One of the first things I would do is to replace the members of the Rent Guidelines Board,” he said without hesitation. “We just watched rents go up $40 million on rent stabilized apartments, and the rent on these apartments have increased each year under Bloomberg.
“We need to start to make New York City more affordable, especially for those people on the verge of being pushed out of the city,” Thompson continued.
In a day that began with him pumping hands at the Staten Island Ferry, he moved on to Staten Island to talk about affordable housing, to meet with Councilman Charles Barron and his wife, Assemblywoman Inez Barron, in East New York, to Brownsville to discuss the plight of senior citizens and to hold a slew of meetings as the campaign roars into high gear in the final hours.
Two other important elections on Tuesday feature Council Members John Liu and Bill de Blasio, who are running for city comptroller and public advocate respectively.