NEW YORK — One of the most unpredictable and contentious primary campaigns the city has seen in decades is drawing to a close. And on Tuesday, for the first time since 1997, voters will not see Michael Bloomberg’s name on their mayoral ballot.
Bloomberg has defined New York City for 12 years, largely setting party politics aside as he led with his data-driven convictions and his immense fortune. Both parties are grappling with his legacy — the Republican mayoral hopefuls are largely promising to maintain his policies, while the Democrats have offered a different approach.
Their front-runner is pitching himself as the cleanest break with the current administration.
Bill de Blasio, the public advocate, enters primary day with a commanding lead in the polls, a staggering reversal of fortune from six weeks ago, when his campaign was mostly an afterthought. But several events coincided to give him momentum in the race’s final days:
■ He fought a proposed closure of a Brooklyn hospital, even getting arrested for his efforts, which gave a much-needed shot of publicity.
■ His interracial family, especially his Afro-sporting 15-year-old son, became the center of his advertising campaign. That prompted Bloomberg to call de Blasio’s campaign ‘‘racist’’ in an interview released over the weekend, putting de Blasio’s rivals in the unwelcome position of having to defend the public advocate.
■ And former frontrunner Anthony Weiner succumbed to another sexting scandal, prompting many of his supporters to defect to de Blasio.
In a Quinnipiac University poll released Monday, de Blasio was the choice of 39 percent of likely Democratic voters, just shy of the 40 percent mark needed to avoid triggering an automatic Oct. 1 runoff between Tuesday’s top two finishers. One poll last week had him over 40 percent, but the campaigns expect a runoff.
That Quinnipiac poll, which surveyed 782 Democrats and has a margin of error of 3.5 percentage points, also suggested that 18 percent could change their minds before entering the voting booth. If de Blasio’s support holds, the other spot in the potential runoff appears to be a battle between City Council speaker Christine Quinn and Bill Thompson, former comptroller. Quinn, who is bidding to become the city’s first female and first openly gay mayor, led the polls for most of the year but has seen support disappear as her rivals have repeatedly linked her to the bitter debate to let Bloomberg run for a third term in 2009.