NEW YORK – Bill de Blasio, who transformed himself from a little-known occupant of an obscure office into the fiery voice of New York’s disillusionment with a new gilded age, was elected the city’s 109th mayor Tuesday, according to exit polls.
His overwhelming victory, stretching from the working-class precincts of central Brooklyn to the suburban streets of northwest Queens, amounted to a forceful rejection of the hard-nosed, business-minded style of governance that reigned at City Hall for the past two decades and a sharp leftward turn for the nation’s largest metropolis.
De Blasio, a Democrat who is the city’s public advocate, defeated his Republican opponent, Joseph J. Lhota, a former chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, by a wide margin.
Exit polls conducted by Edison Research suggested that the sweep of his victory cut across all of New York’s traditional divides. He won support from voters regardless of race, gender, age, education, religion or income, according to the exit poll.
The lopsided outcome represented the triumph of a populist message over a formidable résumé in a campaign that became a referendum on an entire era, starting with Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and ending with the incumbent mayor, Michael R. Bloomberg.
Throughout the race, de Blasio overshadowed his opponent by giving voice to New Yorkers’ rising frustrations with income inequality, aggressive policing tactics and lack of affordable housing, and by declaring that the ever-improving city need not leave so many behind.
To an unusual degree, he relied on his own biracial family to connect with an increasingly diverse electorate, electrifying voters with a television commercial featuring his charismatic teenage son, Dante, who has a towering Afro.
In interviews on Election Day, voters across the five boroughs said that his message had channeled their deep-seated grievances and yearning for change.
Darrian Smith, 48, a custodian at a public school in Brownsville, Brooklyn, said his vote for de Blasio was a plea to end the widespread police searches, known as the stop-and-frisk policy, that have repeatedly ensnared him and his African-American neighbors.
“When I look at Mr. de Blasio, I see a bright light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.
Jon Kopita, an educational consultant from Greenwich Village, called de Blasio the best hope for slowing the growth of luxury condominiums that crowd his Manhattan neighborhood.
“If it just becomes a rich person’s city, then I might as well just go live somewhere else,” he said. “It’s time to go in a different direction.”
The traditional Republican Party playbook that had propelled Giuliani and Bloomberg to victory in an overwhelmingly Democratic city – reaching across party lines to voters worried about crime, education and quality of life – felt outdated this campaign season. Even traditionally conservative-leaning neighborhoods fell to de Blasio.
He will become the first Democrat to lead New York in a generation, ending his party’s two-decade-long exile from City Hall.
“It’s huge,” said John H. Mollenkopf, director of the Center for Urban Research at the City University of New York, who added that de Blasio had shown that Democrats were again willing to entrust City Hall to one of their own.
“Liberalism,” Mollenkopf said, “is not dead in New York City.”