New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who engineered a change in the city’s term-limits law so he could run again and set a campaign financing record, narrowly won a third term on Tuesday, local media declared.
Bloomberg, who ran as an independent, defeated City Comptroller Bill Thompson, a Democrat, the New York Times, the Daily News and NY1 television reported.
With 99 percent of the votes counted, Bloomberg was ahead 51 to 46 percent.
His margin was far smaller than expected, given polls that showed him as recently as Monday with a double-digit lead and expectations of a large, lopsided victory.
Bloomberg spent more of his own money in pursuit of public office than any other individual in US history, and he vastly outspent his challenger, laying out US$13 for every US$1 spent by Thompson.
Described by Forbes magazine as the richest man in New York, with a US$16 billion fortune, Bloomberg has spent almost US$90 million on his re-election bid and is on track to spend as much as US$140 million overall. Thompson spent US$7 million.
Bloomberg pledged in a speech to supporters to cut crime further, reduce the city’s carbon emissions, expand mass transit, increase city parkland, improve schools, add affordable housing and jobs and diversify the local economy.
“Conventional wisdom says that historically third terms haven’t been too successful, but we’ve spent the past eight years defying conventional wisdom,” he said, citing the city’s economic resilience following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and its success at lowering crime rates.
Meanwhile, Republican candidates emerged victorious in two US state elections that were viewed as an early measure of US President Barack Obama’s popularity.
Bob McDonnell was elected governor of Virginia in a landslide, winning 59 per cent to 41 percent for Democrat Creigh Deeds and recapturing a state that voted for Obama exactly one year ago.
In New Jersey, usually a reliably left-leaning state, Republican Chris Christie defeated the Democratic incumbent Governor Jon Corzine with 49 percent against 45 percent.
The elections in Virginia and New Jersey were the first major polls since Obama was elected. But the congressional elections in November next year will be the bigger test, when the entire House of Representatives and one-third of the Senate is up for grabs.
The country’s struggling economy was a dominant issue in both states. Republicans tapped into anger over still-rising unemployment and what some voters perceive as reckless spending by center-left Democrats to revive the economy.
Both elections garnered national attention as Republicans looked to reverse their fortunes of the last few years. Democrats hoped to maintain the momentum of the election a year ago but struggled to harness the excitement that was generated by Obama’s candidacy.
But Democrats can take heart from a major upset in a special election for Congress in upstate New York. Bill Owens captured a district along the Canadian border that has been a Republican stronghold for more than a century.
Owens benefited from a split among conservatives. Republican Party candidate Dede Scozzafava, a moderate with left-leaning views on social issues, quit the race on Saturday after many of her party’s national figures threw their support behind a conservative third-party candidate, Doug Hoffman.