Democrat Bill de Blasio has won the New York City mayoral race, according to exit polls. He will succeed billionaire Michael Bloomberg, who has governed the city for twelve years.
De Blasio defeated Republican opponent Joe Lhota on Tuesday to become New York City's first Democrat mayor in over 20 years. The 52-year-old public advocate ran on a platform to reduce economic inequality in the largest US city, promising to raise taxes and increase spending on social programs.
"Thank you, New York City," de Blasio's campaign tweeted just after the close of polls. Tuesday's outcome was virtually a foregone conclusion, with de Blasio enjoying a 41-percent lead over his opponent in the run-up to the election.
Although New York City has six times as many registered Democrats as Republicans, the metropolis has been governed by conservatives since 1989. Former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani helped clean up a city plagued by crime and saw it through the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack against the World Trade Center.
Departing Mayor Bloomberg, who ran as a Republican and later as an independent, implemented controversial safety and public health policies. He introduced the so-called “stop-and-frisk” policy, in which police can stop, question and frisk people using a lax definition of probable cause.
Critics say the tactic unfairly targets the black and Latino communities, while supporters argue that it has helped reduce crime. New York City's population of 8.3 million is 33.3 percent white, 25.5 percent black, 28.6 percent Latino and 12.7 percent Asian.
De Blasio said he would end stop-and-frisk. He has also promised to increase taxes to fund universal pre-kindergarten education and build 200,000 affordable housing units.
There were two other closely followed regional elections in the US on Tuesday. In New Jersey, incumbent Republican Governor Chris Christie won a landside victory in the overwhelmingly Democratic state. Christie is tipped as a possible 2016 Republican presidential candidate.
In Virginia, Terry McAuliffe - a former top Democratic Party official and close friend to Bill and Hillary Clinton - won the governorship, defeating Republican Ken Cuccinelli.
slk/jr (AP, AFP, dpa)