Democrat on the brink of historic win in mayor race
A Left-wing city official who wants to increase taxes for Manhattan's millionaires is set to become the first Democrat elected as mayor of New York for almost a quarter of a century.
Bill de Blasio leads Joe Lhota, his Republican rival, by 40 percentage points in final opinion polls, and appears poised to take over from Michael Bloomberg as the chief executive of America's biggest city.
Mr De Blasio, who likens himself to European Social Democrats, has promised working-class New Yorkers a sharp break from the Wall Street-friendly policies of Mr Bloomberg's 12 years at City Hall.
"In so many ways, New York has become a Tale of Two Cities," he told his rallies.
"Nearly 400,000 millionaires call New York home, while nearly half of our neighbours live at or near the poverty line."
The 52-year-old wants the state legislature to raise taxes on city residents earning $500,000 (€371,000) or more by an average of $973 a year to fund pre-school places for every child in New York.
He has also pledged to scrap the city police's "stop-and-frisk" policy, under which pedestrians are searched for weapons and drugs. Critics claim it amounts to racial profiling of black and Latino youths.
If victorious, Mr De Blasio would be the first Democrat elected to lead New York since David Dinkins in 1989. Mr Bloomberg first won as a Republican and is now an Independent.
Mr De Blasio's lead has been cited on the left as proof that New Yorkers have tired of the billionaire Mr Bloomberg's business-friendly approach, as America recovers from recession.
However Mr De Blasio, a towering Italian-American, has attracted just as much attention for his multi-racial family. His African-American wife, Chirlane, was formerly a lesbian, and his son, Dante, wears his hair in an Afro that featured prominently in campaign advertisements.
Mr De Blasio was the manager of Hillary Clinton's successful US Senate campaign in 2000 and currently serves as Public Advocate – a watchdog figure and second-in-line to the mayoralty. His plans have been attacked by Mr Lhota, the city's former transport chief, as heralding a return to the "soft-on-crime" policies that turned New York into "America's murder capital" in the 1980s.
Mr Bloomberg, furious at the assault on his crime-fighting tactics, even accused Mr De Blasio of running a "racist" campaign and engaging in "class warfare".
Yet the Republican has struggled to dent the commanding poll lead established by his rival, who emerged as the surprise winner in a crowded party primary contest earlier this year.
Mr De Blasio may need to get to bed earlier – or find some stronger coffee – if he is to successfully lead the so-called "city that never sleeps", however. After arriving an hour late to a campaign event last week, he told supporters: "I am not a morning person."
But he is also a consummate pragmatist, having worked for both Bill and Hillary Clinton. (© Daily Telegraph, London)