NEW YORK — One of the most unpredictable and contentious primary campaigns the city has seen in decades is drawing to a close. And today, for the first time since 1997, voters will not see Michael Bloomberg's name on their mayoral ballot.
Bloomberg has defined New York City for 12 years. Both parties are now grappling with his legacy — the Republican mayoral hopefuls are largely promising to maintain his policies, while the Democrats have offered a sharply different approach.
Democrat Bill de Blasio, the city's public advocate, enters primary day with a commanding lead in the polls, a staggering reversal of fortune from six weeks ago, when his campaign was mostly an afterthought. But several events coincided to give him momentum in the final days:
• He fought a proposed closure of a Brooklyn hospital, even getting arrested, which gave a much-needed shot of publicity.
• His interracial family, especially his Afro-sporting 15-year-old son, became the center of his ad campaign. That prompted Bloomberg to call de Blasio's campaign "racist" in an interview released over the weekend, putting de Blasio's rivals in the unwelcome position of having to defend the public advocate.
• And former front-runner Anthony Weiner succumbed to another sexting scandal, prompting many of his supporters to defect to de Blasio.
In a Quinnipiac University poll released Monday, de Blasio was the choice of 39 percent of likely Democratic voters, just shy of the 40 percent mark needed to avoid an Oct. 1 runoff between the top two finishers.
But that Quinnipiac poll, which surveyed 782 Democrats and has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points, also suggested that 18 percent could change their minds before entering the voting booth.
If de Blasio's support holds, the other spot in the potential runoff appears to be a battle between City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and former Comptroller Bill Thompson.
Among Republicans, Joe Lhota, the former Metropolitan Transportation Authority chairman who received acclaim for steering the agency through Hurricane Sandy last fall, has led the polls all campaign.
His primary challenger is John Catsimatidis, a billionaire grocery store magnate who has unleashed a series of blistering attack ads on Lhota.
Also today, ex-Gov. Eliot Spitzer will be trying to make a political comeback in the Democratic primary for city comptroller. Seeking to rebuild a political career devastated by a prostitution scandal, Spitzer is taking on Scott Stringer, Manhattan's borough president.