With disgraced former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner again drawing the ire of New Yorkers after more sexting revelations, political insiders in the Big Apple are casting their gaze toward Bill Thompson, the African-American former city comptroller, as the candidate with the best chance of benefitting from Weiner’s fall.
Thompson has been a presence on the New York political scene for years, and is low-key and reserved where Weiner is charismatic and extroverted. Yet the man who actually came close to beating Mayor Michael Bloomberg in the last mayoral election shouldn’t be discounted.
As the Washington Post put it, “He’s so low key that voters sometimes forget that they voted for him four years ago.”
“At this stage of the game, Thompson is the guy to keep an eye on, obviously,” Quinnipiac polling director Mickey Carroll told The Washington Post. “I wouldn’t put it in the bank, but it looks pretty good for him.”
Thompson is the only black candidate in the mayoral race—and voters of color are expected to make up the majority at the ballot box. In the latest Quinnipiac survey of likely voters, Thompson got 35 percent of African-American voters. Weiner, who says he’s staying the race despite being mortally wounded, came in second with 31 percent—before his latest scandal.
Thompson’s only hiccup for black voters is his assertion that the controversial and racially-biased stop-and-frisk practice is a “useful tool”—though he then called for an end to it.
As for drawing the Latino vote, Thompson has the endorsement of Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. and state Sen. Adriano Espaillat, the Senate Latino Caucus chair. He is also backed by the city’s influential teachers’ union, the UFT, and the union of city firefighters.
With the crowded Democratic field, a run-off is looking more likely—and Thompson could beat Weiner and City Council President Christine Quinn in a head-to-head race. According to a Marist/NBC/WSJ poll out Thursday, Thompson is in a statistical dead heat for that second runoff spot with Weiner and Public Advocate Bill De Blasio, while Quinn is the frontrunner in that poll.
Nonetheless, just as they did in 2009 when he snuck up on Bloomberg, the polls are likely underestimating his support, as they often do when counting black and Latino votes.
“His base vote of African-Americans and Latinos tends in primaries in New York to be late-breaking,” said Bill Cunningham, a former Bloomberg adviser. “They tune in to a race closer to Election Day.”
“If Thompson is banking on having people of color coalesce around his candidacy, the decline in Weiner’s numbers can help bolster him down the road,” said Marist polling director Lee Miringhoff.
Though many things can happen in the two months until the primary, right now insiders are putting their money on Thompson to be the second black mayor of New York.