As the last votes came in at 9 p.m., exit polls suggested Public Advocate Bill de Blasio had a wide lead in the Democratic mayoral primary: De Blasio had 42 percent, followed by former City Comptroller Bill Thompson at 26 percent and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn at 18, according to the earliest exit poll.
The the real numbers started coming in, and for a couple of hours it seemed the race — or at least the runoff — was still open. De Blasio maintained a lead of varying distances, and Quinn and Thompson appeared to fluctuate around each other.
It soon became clear that Quinn was not going to make it, however, and around 11:00 p.m., with over 80 percent of precincts reporting, Quinn took to the stage at her primary election party and conceded defeat.
"I wish them both well," Quinn said, speaking of de Blasio and Thompson, who appeared poised to face off in a runoff election.
But with almost all precincts reporting, de Blasio appeared to have just enough votes to avoid a runoff — 40.15 percent with 97 percent of precincts reporting — a margin that could be changed by the affidavit, absentee and military ballots that have not yet been opened.
And the Thompson campaign celebrated what they insisted was a victory.
Thompson nearly jogged into the room and onto the stage at his election night party as the crowd chanted, "Three more weeks!"
"We all know tonight is very close," Thompson said. "There are still tens of thousands of ballots that remain to be counted."
Thompson called out the third term issue, saying pointedly: "A small group of politicians conspired to take your voice away and let Mike Bloomberg buy a third term. Some helped, some took a pass at fighting against him."
"But not you, not us, not then, not here and not now!" the typically mild-mannered Thompson roared.
"We are just getting going here," he promised the crowd. "We're just getting started."
Over in Brooklyn, de Blasio's camp also celebrated, but appeared to accept that a runoff was in the cards, referring to the next phase of the election without getting into specifics.
"We know there's a long road ahead, certainly in this campaign," de Blasio said.
De Blasio cited "that day we said that New York had become a tale of two cities" as the start of his campaign, and praised his camp for setting out in January "to offer an unapologetically progressive alternative to the Bloomberg administration."
"There are those who have said our ambitions are too bold," de Blasio said. "We are New Yorkers — proud citizens in the greatest country on earth. Thinking big isn't new to us... It is essential to our characters as New Yorkers."
There will likely be no conclusive declaration of a runoff until Monday when the affidavit, absentee and military ballots that remain to be counted will be opened.
Quinn, who occasionally faced criticism on the campaign trail for not seeming "warm," spoke adoringly of her family — in particular, her wife Kim Catullo, who she called "one of the most compelling champions that this campaign had" and praised for her "selfless generosity."
Catullo, known for being media-shy, had in recent weeks joined Quinn on the campaign trail.
"I'm grateful and incredibly lucky to have this enormous family behind me now," Quinn said, calling out her father and sister. "And all of the Catullos who are the greatest gifts I've ever gotten in my whole life."
Sydney Leathers, the 23-year-old woman who a few months ago came forward with salacious messages she and Anthony Weiner exchanged last year, apparently showed up at Weiner's primary night party unannounced early in the evening.
Weiner gave a concession speech around 10:45 p.m., after calling de Blasio, Thompson and Quinn.
"Sadly, we did not win this time," Weiner said.
Weiner took full responsibility for the failure of his campaign.
"I have to say that we had the best ideas but I was an imperfect messenger," Weiner said.
He did not state any specific plans for the future, but vowed: "If you keep fighting, I'm going to keep fighting."
The GOP Ticket
A little before 11 p.m., major news outlets declared mayoral candidate and former MTA Chairman Joe Lhota the winner in the Republican primary. With 82 percent of precincts reporting, Lhota had 52 percent of the vote. Gristedes mogul John Catsimatidis came in second with 41 percent, and George McDonald a distant third with 6 percent.
Lhota gave a forceful victory speech, seeming to zero in on de Blasio as his competitor in the general election.
"I'm hearing an awful lot from the other campaign about a tale of two cities," Lhota declared, seizing on de Blasio's campaign's tagline. "This is a tale of class warfare. It's what brought this city to the brink of bankruptcy."
"I will unify our city," he vowed, still holding on to his characteristic idealism as he insisted: "New York City is the city of opportunity — there are no limits to what we can do."
With 82 percent of precincts reporting, Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer was leading the Comptroller race with 51 percent to former Governor Eliot Spitzer's 48 percent. Those numbers appeared to stay relatively steady, though Spitzer spokeswoman Lis Smith expressed confidence in a TV interview that her candidate would still pull through.
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