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Voters in New York City go to the polls tomorrow to choose their party's candidates for mayor. With just one day to go before the primary election, the candidates raced across the five boroughs trying to fire up their bases and woo any undecided voters. The Democratic primary grabbed national attention when former Congressman Anthony Wiener decided to run, he's since fallen out of favor. Now the race is playing out as a referendum on the 12 years of outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg's administration.
NPR's Joe Rose reports.
JOEL ROSE, BYLINE: It was the first day of school in New York City and the Democratic front runner, public advocate Bill de Blasio, started his day shaking hands with parents outside an elementary school in Brooklyn.
BILL DE BLASIO: Spread the word, would you?
UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: I will, of course.
ROSE: Education is de Blasio's big issue. He wants to make early childhood education available to all New Yorkers. And he wants to pay for it by raising taxes on the wealthiest.
BLASIO: We're going to get this right, really fix our schools and really make them serve every kind of child.
ROSE: De Blasio says that key to reversing a decade of growing income inequality under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, an independent. De Blasio is no fan of the current mayor and apparently the feeling is mutual. In an interview with New York Magazine, Bloomberg said de Blasio was engaging in class warfare and described de Blasio's campaign as racist for highlighting that the de Blasio - who is white - is married to a black woman and has biracial kids.
De Blasio rejects both charges.
BLASIO: People are struggling so I think the message of, you know, real fundamental change in our approach, and moving away from the Bloomberg years, will resonate.
ROSE: Polls consistently showed de Blasio leading a crowded Democratic field. But unless he can get more than 40 percent of the vote tomorrow, the top two finishers will face-off again in a runoff election in early October. The real fight is for the second spot in the runoff.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHANTING)
ROSE: Hundreds of supporters came out to cheer for Democrat Bill Thompson, a former city controller, at a rally on the steps of City Hall. Thompson came close to beating Michael Bloomberg four years ago, even though polls showed him trailing badly. So he urged his supporters not to let up in the final hours.
BILL THOMPSON: This isn't about easy promises and easy words. This is about hard work and getting it done. Let's knock on those doors. Let's make those phone calls. Let's reach out to people on the streets.
THOMPSON: Let's make sure that we don't have any regrets on Wednesday.
ROSE: Thompson spent much of the day trying to turn out the vote in predominantly black neighborhoods in Brooklyn. His main competition for the second spot in a possible runoff is Christine Quinn, the city council speaker. She's running to be the first female and first openly gay mayor of New York. Between campaign stops, she appeared on MSNBC this morning.
CHRISTINE QUINN: I am both someone with a progressive vision to move the city forward but also I'm the only person who's running who has a long and extensive record of having delivered progressive results for New Yorkers. They want a mayor who can improve the city, leave no one behind and you need to have done that to be able to do that.
ROSE: Recent polls show Quinn fading into third place, though still far ahead of disgraced former Congressman Anthony Wiener. Many Democratic voters seem unable to forgive Quinn for helping change city law to let Mayor Bloomberg run for a third term. And oddly, she's had a hard time connecting with women.
On the Republican side, support is coalescing around a single candidate, Joe Loda. He was an assistant to former Mayor Rudy Giuliani and won accolades for leading the agency that runs the subway through Hurricane Sandy. Loda may have enough support to avoid a Republican runoff, but he faces an uphill climb to keep Democrats from retaking Gracie Mansion for the first time in a generation.
Joel Rose, NPR News, New York. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.