‘In the name of progress’: De Blasio celebrates a big, tentative victory

De Blasio laughs during his victory party. (Reid Pillifant)
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Bill de Blasio celebrated a big victory in New York's Democratic primary on Tuesday night, even as results indicated he might still require a run-off to the secure the nomination.

"What we have achieved here tonight, and what we'll do in the next round of this campaign, won't just the change the view of how things look inside City Hall, but will change the policies that have left behind so many of our fellow New Yorkers," said de Blasio at a crowded party at the Bell House in Brooklyn, over a raucous chant of "Mayor Bill."

De Blasio took the stage as the election returns showed him hovering just above the 40 percent threshold needed to secure the nomination without a run-off, with former comptroller Bill Thompson in second place with 26 percent of the primary vote. Additional ballots will still have to be counted to determine whether de Blasio will have to face Thompson in three weeks for the nomination, or whether he gets the nomination outright, and moves on to face former Giuliani deputy Joe Lhota, the winner of the Republican contest. 

De Blasio, the public advocate, shared the moment with his wife, Chirlane McCray, and his two children, Dante and Chiara, a fitting coda for a family campaign that kicked off in January on their front porch in Park Slope. (Chiara was away at college for the kick-off, but her brother read a letter on her behalf.)

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"Remember that one?" de Blasio asked the crowd of his kick-off event, adding, "That day we saw a ripple, a ripple of determination to chart a new way forward, to offer an unapologetically progressive alternative."

The ripple was almost unnoticeable at the time, with de Blasio polling in the single digits. He struggled to muster much attention in the ensuing months, as Anthony Weiner's surprise candidacy dominated coverage of the race.

When Weiner's support collapsed in late July, amid new revelations about his personal life, de Blasio began a steady rise that vaulted him into first place just weeks before the primary.

His rise was helped by a commercial featuring his son Dante, which played twice before the candidate took the stage, to cheers from the crowd. (Later, when Chiara reached up to touch Dante's signature afro, de Blasio warned that "security was ready to intervene.")

De Blasio and Dante, dressed up in a dark suit and striped purple tie, arrived to cheers from an outdoor block party befitting New Brooklyn, with television screens to accommodate the overflow crowd, and food trucks peddling lobster rolls, pizza and schnitzel.

"I heard there was a little block party and I had to come over," he said.

De Blasio said they were "anxiously awaiting the results," but that the performance on Tuesday had been "extraordinary."

"We got a lot of work ahead, we got a lot of work ahead, but if what you did today was any indication, everyone should be extraordinarily proud, amazing teamwork, amazing energy at the grassroots," he said, before heading to a V.I.P. room. "And that's how we change this city."

Aides to de Blasio were toasting plastic cups and half-hugging even before the polls had officially closed, but the celebratory mood was briefly interrupted by President Obama's address on the situation in Syria, and a possible U.S. military response to that government's use of sarin gas.

The lights in the barn-like venue dimmed as the president took to the podium on a screen behind the stage, and the festive music switched gave way to Obama's remarks. When he finished, the lights dimmed again and the stereo piped back up to "Signed, Sealed, Delivered."

The music didn't stop for Joe Lhota, who delivered his victory speech as a rap track played over his muted remarks.

The crowd reflected Blasio's broad coalition: old guys in suits, young people with dreadlocks, t-shirts representing 1199 and New York Communities for Change, and a few dozen people stood on rafters at the back of the stage while de Blasio spoke. (The guests included Rep. Yvette Clarke, Bertha Lewis, Bob Masters, and Council members Brad Lander and Melissa Mark-Viverito.)

De Blasio was preceded on stage by Cynthia Nixon and George Gresham, of 1199 SEIU, who de Blasio called "architects of the campaign." He was introduced by Chiara, who acknowledged the family's role in his campaign, but said the campaign family included all the voters and volunteers.

"You made this campaign a cause and I celebrate you for that," de Blasio told the crowd, talking about his commitment to education, and increased taxes on the city's high earner.

De Blasio asked the crowd to "recommit ourselves to the movement that got us here to begin with, a commitment to giving every child in our city the chance they deserve."

"Our mission is to change our city in the name of progress," he said.

After his remarks, he hugged his family on the stage, and together they did the "smack down" dance, which was invented by his cousin Vinny, and was recently memorialized on the cover of the New York Times.