A landslide of votes for Bill de Blasio has got him elected mayor of New York, the first Democrat in two decades. Largely, the overwhelming support came from citizens hungry for a shift away from policies that benefited the rich more than people with middle or low incomes.
He and spouse Chirlane McCray, a poet and social activist who used to only date women, have a son and daughter together, Chiara, 18, and Dante, 16. They also helped their dad’s campaign, which pointedly criticised outgoing mayor Michael Bloomberg.
De Blasio said: “I think the people in this city know that so many New Yorkers are struggling just to make ends-meet and we need to make very serious progressive change, and move away from Bloomberg-era policies, and I’m ready to do it, and I need the support of New Yorkers to get it done.”
Twelve years under the Republican whom de Blasio is replacing saw New York develop economically, saw crime fall and tourism rise, but also saw inequality boom during that time and the wealth gap widen.
The city’s 8.3 million population includes 400,000 dollar millionaires and 1,700,000 poor people.
De Blasio has promised to fund pre-school from age four by raising taxes on annual incomes higher than the equivalent of 375,000 euros. He is also committed to evening special education programmes and investing in neighbourhood hospitals, building 200,000 subsidised housing units and replacing the chief of police, curbing police stop-and-frisk practices that many people feel are based on racial profiling in a very multi-racial, multi-cultural metropolis.
Non-Hispanic whites make up one third of New York City, with Hispanics and African Americans and Asians far more numerous.
Bill de Blasio’s father was American of German origins but he was raised by his Italian-heritage mother, and he eventually chose her name as his. He did his B.A. at New York University, and earned a Master of International Affairs from Columbia University, focusing on Latin America.
Voters in cities across the US on Tuesday chose state governors and mayors for their municipalities. Some went to Democrats, others to Republicans, in the first such polls since the government shutdown. De Blasio enjoyed a bonanza in New York; Jersey was a cinch for Chris Christie, but Terry McAuliffe only squeaked by in Virginia.
The day highlighted Americans’ appetites for their political future.
From euronews headquarters in Lyon, France, Alasdair Sandford spoke to our Washington correspondent Stefan Grobe, asking him what message these election results send nationally for both Republicans and Democrats.
Stefan Grobe: “I think that these elections signal a turn towards the centre left, or at least a turn towards politicians who are more common sense and willing to compromise.
“In New York City, we have de Blasio pledging to put an end to the growing inequality that threatens more and more middle class people. In heavily Democrat New Jersey we have moderate Republican Chris Christie who has distanced himself from the right wing of his party and who likes to portray himself as someone who gets things done.
“In conservative Virginia, voters rejected a right wing Republican who had called the election a referendum on Obamacare, the controversial health care law – and failed.”
Sandford: “So, more middle-ground, more centre-ground politics… is that what we can see ahead, perhaps next year for the Congressional midterms, and beyond that for the presidential elections in 2016?”
Grobe: “Absolutely, and what we are going to see in 2014, when we have Congressional elections, is that there will be an intensified fight within the Republican party over the future direction. The right wing Tea Party [movement] has more energised members and activists, but is unsuccessful in big elections. The biggest challenge for establishment Republicans will be to fend off Tea Party rivals in the intra-party primaries and to depict themselves as the only ones who have a chance to win against Democrats. Same thing for the 2016 presidential election – and that gives Chris Christie an enormous advantage against his conservative rivals.”