NEW YORK — Public Advocate Bill de Blasio capped a surge from seemingly nowhere in New York City’s mayoral primary Tuesday by taking a commanding lead on his Democratic opponents, hovering near the threshold needed to avoid a runoff.
Former Metropolitan Transit Authority chairman Joe Lhota easily won in the GOP nomination, capping a chaotic primary to succeed 12 years of Mayor Michael Bloomberg. The night also marked the unceremonious end to the bid by a City Council leader trying to become the first female and openly gay mayor, and to the political comebacks of scandal-scarred candidates Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer.
With 94 percent of precincts reporting, de Blasio had about 40 percent of the total vote. He needs to stay above 40 percent in order to avoid triggering an automatic Oct. 1 runoff. If he cannot, he will face former city comptroller Bill Thompson, who had 26 percent.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn was third at 15 percent, followed by current city Comptroller John Liu at 7 percent and Weiner at 5 percent. Elections officials are expected to count an additional 30,000 or more votes in coming days as absentee ballots arrive by mail and paperwork comes in from voters who had problems at the polls. A final result may not be known for 10 days.
Thompson made it clear he wanted to contest the runoff.
‘‘Three more weeks! Three more weeks!’’ chanted Thompson, the party’s 2009 nominee, referring to the campaign sprint before the potential runoff. ‘‘This is far from over.’’
De Blasio’s rise in the race to succeed Bloomberg was as sudden as it was unexpected.
Not even two months ago, he was an afterthought in the campaign but surged in part thanks to an ad blitz that centered on his interracial family, his headline-grabbing arrest while protesting the possible closure of a Brooklyn hospital, and the defection of ex-congressman Weiner’s former supporters in the wake of another sexting scandal.
Exit polling showed the appeal of de Blasio, the city’s elected public advocate, to be broad-based: He was ahead in all five boroughs; was even with Thompson, the only African-American candidate, with black voters, and ahead of Quinn, the lone woman in the race, with female voters. He also led Quinn, who is openly gay, among gay voters.
The winner of that contest will face Lhota in the Nov. 5 general election. Lhota, ex-MTA chair and former deputy mayor to Rudolph Giuliani, defeated billionaire grocery magnate John Catsimatidis.
In the closely watched race for city comptroller, Manhattan Borough president Stringer defeated Spitzer, who was seeking a return to politics after resigning New York’s governor’s office in 2008 amid a prostitution scandal.
The winner of the mayor’s race in November will assume the helm of the nation’s largest city at a critical juncture, as it experiences shrinking crime rates yet widening income inequality.
Bloomberg, the businessman Republican-turned-independent, is completing his third term. De Blasio, 52, fashioned himself as the cleanest break from the Bloomberg years, proposing a tax on the wealthy to fund universal pre-kindergarten and changes to city police practices he says discriminate against minorities.
De Blasio worked in Bill Clinton’s White House before being elected to the city council and then public advocate, the city’s watchdog position.
Quinn was the front-runner for much of the year, boasting the biggest campaign war chest and strong establishment backing. But she was dogged by her support to change term limits to let Bloomberg run again in 2009, a decision unpopular with liberals.
Weiner surprisingly entered the race in May after being in political exile since resigning from Congress in 2011 upon admitting to lewd online exchanges with women who were not his wife.
His candidacy sparked curiosity, and he immediately shot to the top of the polls. But support collapsed almost as quickly when he revealed in July that he continued the online behavior even after his resignation.