NEW YORK: Bill de Blasio, a harsh liberal critic of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, won the most votes in the New York City Democratic mayoral primary on Tuesday but may still face a runoff, according to unofficial results.
With nearly 90 percent of precincts reporting, Public Advocate de Blasio was winning 40 percent and former city comptroller Bill Thompson 26 percent, according to NY1 television.
De Blasio needs at least 40 percent of the official vote or he will face Thompson on Oct. 1 to decide who will be the Democratic nominee in the race to succeed Bloomberg in running the most populous city in the United States.
But with about 19,000 absentee and military ballots due to be counted starting on Monday, election officials said, the runoff was up in the air.
"We will have a better sense on Monday," said New York City Board of Elections spokeswoman Valerie Vasquez.
Neither candidate was willing to throw in the towel when they thanked their supporters late on Tuesday.
De Blasio, a lanky 6-foot-5 and one of the more liberal candidates on the ballot, called his campaign "an unapologetically progressive alternative to the Bloomberg era."
"Settling for the status quo isn't just too small. It's a risk we as a city cannot afford to take," he said, flanked by his mixed-race family. "And policing policies that single out young people of color ... that isn't a New York we can allow to continue."
De Blasio ran on a platform opposing stop and frisk - a police tactic that overwhelmingly targets young black men and hailed by Bloomberg as critical to fighting crime. He also has proposed raising taxes on the city's highest earners to pay for universal pre-kindergarten.
Thompson, the only black candidate in the race, vowed to stay in the race and battle de Blasio if a runoff is called.
"We're going to finish what we started," he said at his primary night celebration at a midtown Manhattan hotel. "This is far from over."
Thompson lost the 2009 race to Bloomberg, who has been mayor for 12 years, and is leaving office due to term limits.
Christine Quinn, who would have been the city's first female and openly gay mayor if elected, was seen as most likely to follow Bloomberg's moderate policies. She won only 15 percent of the vote, the results showed.
On the Republican side, Joe Lhota, a deputy to former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, was the projected winner of the Republican mayoral primary.
The former head of the city's Metropolitan Transportation Authority, defeated John Catsimatidis, according to NY1.
"I'm hearing a lot coming from the other side about a tale of two cities and how they want to tear down the progress that's happened over the last 20 years," Lhota said at his victory celebration. "This tale is nothing more than class warfare, an attempt to divide our city."
"The last thing we want is to send our city back to the days of economic despair, fear and hopelessness," he said.
Lhota faces an uphill battle against the Democratic nominee in the city of 8.3 million people, where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans six to one.
Among the Democratic mayoral candidates, former Congressman Anthony Weiner, who at some point led the race but saw his campaign crumble after news that his penchant for texting women lewd pictures of himself had not ended, placed last among the major candidates with 5 percent.
"We had the best ideas. Sadly, I was an imperfect messenger," Weiner said in at a midtown Manhattan bar. His wife, Huma Abedin, a former aide to Hillary Clinton when she was secretary of state, was not seen beside him.
Sydney Leathers, who came forward this summer to say she and Weiner had frequent sexually charged conversations online and over the phone, also attended his primary night party.
"I'm here celebrating his impending doom. His loss, here at his victory party," Leathers said.
"I mean, I'm one to talk," she said. "But he needs help."
New York Democrats have seemed to respond not just to de Blasio's liberal, anti-Bloomberg message, but to his family, including his wife, Chirlane McCray, who is black.
Four years ago, when Bloomberg announced he would seek a change in the city's term-limits law to seek a third term, de Blasio was a vocal opponent. That fight helped de Blasio win the job of public advocate.
At a primary night celebration, Democrat David Brezler said he was firmly behind de Blasio.
"De Blasio is very clear in terms of where he stands on certain issues and what he wants," he said. "It's a narrative that works because some people are upset about the last 12 years, that it was 12 years."
Former New York Governor Eliot Spitzer, who resigned the state's top office in 2008 amid a prostitution scandal, conceded defeat to Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer in the Democratic race for New York City Comptroller.
Spitzer was seeking a political comeback as the "Sheriff of Wall Street," a moniker he earned for taking on big banks as state attorney general.