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Black Vote Divided in NYC Mayor’s Race

From (l. to r.) are Christine Quinn, Bill Thompson, Erick Salgado, and Bill de Blasio.

Four years after overwhelming support from black voters nearly carried Bill Thompson to an improbable upset of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the lone African-American candidate for mayor is facing a stiff challenge for their support this time around.

The race’s new front-runner, Bill de Blasio, has resonated with black voters as a harsh critic of stop and frisk and the father of interracial children. And with the Sept. 10 primary fast approaching, de Blasio’s support among blacks appears to be growing.

“It is a mistake to say the African-American vote is monolithic,” said political consultant Basil Smikle. “The African-American community is changing – there is a diversity in income, in education, in where we live. … There’s not a knee-jerk reaction to get behind the black candidate.”

Black voters are expected to make up about 30 percent of the primary electorate, a bloc that could have a key role in determining who gets the Democratic nomination.

De Blasio, who is white, was the choice of 34 percent of African-American likely Democratic voters polled by Quinnipiac College last week, a 4 percentage point jump in two weeks. Thompson tallied 25 percent, while City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who is white, landed 15 percent.

Overall, de Blasio was the choice of 36 percent of voters in the latest poll, putting him tantalizingly close to the 40 percent he needs to avoid a runoff. If no candidate crosses that threshold, the top two finishers square off Oct. 1. Thompson and Quinn are fighting a pitched battle for second.

De Blasio is married to an African-American woman, and their 15-year-old son, Dante, has been the star of two of his campaign’s TV ads. But de Blasio’s interracial family does not solely explain the public advocate’s surge, argued Smikle.

“I think a lot of African-American voters want a fighter,” said Smikle, who is unaffiliated with any campaign. “They want someone who has fire in his belly, someone who is not afraid to push the institution.”

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