By virtually any standard, Bill de Blasio enjoyed an incredible level of support among African-American voters in New York City in his landslide victory for mayor. And now, many in New York City and beyond are digesting the election results, determining what it says about America’s largest city and the attitudes about race and multicultural America.
Exit polls from New York City’s mayoral election show that de Blasio won an estimated 96 percent of New York City’s African-American vote. That is an even higher percentage than the 91 percent of the African-American vote won by David N. Dinkins in his historic 1989 victory to become New York’s first Black mayor.
It is not only de Blasio’s biracial family that struck a chord among Black New Yorkers who were beguiled by the sight of the tall white man and his shorter African-American wife and their attractive two children, including a son with a large Afro whose charm was captured on a political commercial. But to hear a number of Black elected officials and everyday New Yorkers tell it, it was the mayor-elect’s vocal opposition to the police department’s stop-and-frisk policy.
“He focused on issues that resonated with people such as public safety and health care,” said Walter Mosley, a New York assemblyman from Brooklyn, in an interview with BET.com.
“But he also benefited from the fact that there is a tanning of America that we have to take into account,” Mosley said.
“You have more people who are of biracial parentage and biracial marriages. There is a redefining of what Black interests are and those interests are evolving. That was brought to a forefront when they started to see Bill de Blasio’s family. I think many Black people felt that this was the America we’re moving toward.”
Roger Green, a professor of public administration at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn, pointed out that de Blasio won a greater level of support among Black voters in the Democratic primary, despite the fact that there was a popular African-American candidate, William C. Thompson Jr., in that race. Even in that September primary, de Blasio won more of the Black vote than Thompson.
“There is no question that, when you examine the data of this year’s New York elections, young adults in the African-American community are clearly less inclined to case votes based on identity politics,” said Green, a former New York assemblyman, speaking with BET.com.
“They care about issues more than anything,” Green said. “And his position on stop-and-frisk helped to propel him.”
The other factor, Green said, was the fact that many Black New Yorkers have been longing for years for a change in the city’s political tone.
The eight-year mayoralty of Rudolph Giuliani was viewed by many as a dark period in the relationship between City Hall and Black New York. And the 12 years under Mayor Michael Bloomberg have been criticized by many Black officials for their focus on development.
“To most Black voters, de Blasio represented the stark contrast between a Republican neoliberal agenda that’s been running this city and a more progressive agenda that has defined the progressive wing of the Democratic Party. And they liked that progressive agenda.”
One perspective of de Blasio’s margin of victory came from Dinkins himself, the last man to capture more than 90 percent of the African-American vote.
“There are a lot of reasons why he did so well, but it’s hard to select any one and hang your hat on that,” Dinkins said, in an interview with BET.com. “But you also have to consider who the Republicans decided to put up,” he said, referring to Joseph Lhota, a former deputy mayor under Giuliani, who received 24 percent of the Election Day vote to the 73 percent won by de Blasio.
“I don’t think it’s a secret that Lhota was just not the strongest candidate in the world,” Dinkins said.
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(Photo: Andrew Burton/Getty Images)