Pundits say the coming mayoral election in New York City will be a referendum on the three terms of outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg. I disagree. True, the primary candidate most closely associated with him, the City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, lost dismally in the Democratic primary. But my vibe is that her defeat had more to do with her being brash and a lesbian than with her friendship or loyalty for the outgoing mayor.

The stereotype of New Yorkers as worldly, tolerant sophisticates overlooks the fact that observant Catholics, born-again Protestants and orthodox Jews – many of whom reject alternative lifestyles – dominate politics in wide swaths of this world-capital.

De Blasio’s campaign commercial, which featured his movie star handsome, Afro-sporting 16-year old son Dante, will be studied in political science classes for the next century. This kid will soon have his own talk show.

- Geraldo Rivera

Those voters would have gone for a woman like Hillary Clinton, but she is international A-list, First Lady, senator and Secretary of State. She would have played in the heavily ethnic and immigrant outer boroughs, unlike Downtown Speaker Quinn.

Remember, New York did not lead the nation’s way on same sex marriage. Despite being a thriving center of gay life, it followed a half-dozen other states in approving same sex marriage and it happened by gubernatorial decree and a heavily contested vote in the state legislature, not by popular referendum. With the Church’s enormous influence in the Empire State, as in California a referendum on gay marriage might not have won.

Mayor Bloomberg’s 12-year tenure will certainly be discussed and debated in the bitter campaign to come, but the pivotal issue will not be how the billionaire businessman helped steward the city through the Great Recession. Likewise, not many voters are likely to attempt smoking cigarettes in bars and restaurants even after the Scold-in-City Hall has moved back to private life. Nor will they demand that fast-food menus discontinue publishing caloric content.

No, the mayoral election will be determined by the politics of race and class. Bill de Blasio, the winning Democratic candidate made sure of that when he campaigned against rich people and white cops.

He portrayed New York as profoundly divided. His “tale of two cities” spoke of one affluent and privileged city; the other besieged by an oppressive police department and sinking deeper into poverty. De Blasio spoke of how Mayor Bloomberg cared more for real estate developers, high rolling Russian billionaires and Wall Street moguls than for the Average Joe struggling to get by. And by equating it to racial profiling, he stoked enormous resentment against the NYPD’s foundational stop and frisk tactic that has helped make New York the nation’s safest big city. 

With the current police commissioner Ray Kelly on the defensive because of an adverse federal court ruling declaring the practice discriminatory, de Blasio – who is currently New York’s Public Advocate – slandered a police department that is among the nation’s most racially and ethnically diverse.

He also had a potent political weapon, his charming and hugely photogenic mixed-race family, including wife Chirlane McCray who is both African-American and a former lesbian, which helped the candidate out-maneuver the gay Christine Quinn and the only black candidate in the primary race, the otherwise colorless former controller Bill Thompson. 

De Blasio’s campaign commercial, which featured his movie star handsome, Afro-sporting 16-year old son Dante, will be studied in political science classes for the next century. This kid will soon have his own talk show.

“Bill de Blasio will be a mayor for every New Yorker,” Dante croons in the spot (presumably as opposed to just rich, white ones. “And I’d say that even if he weren’t my dad.” He smiles and hearts melt from Harlem to Prospect Park.

Speaking of colorless, the Republican candidate is former Deputy Mayor and Chairman of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority Joe Lhota. He stresses his competence with experience hard won on 9/11 when he stood shoulder-to-shoulder with former mayor Rudy Giuliani as the twin towers collapsed. His candidacy will be embraced as the safer choice by many voters known elsewhere as “Reagan Democrats.”

With the primary barely over, Mr. de Blasio has already tempered his anti-police, anti-business rhetoric. As far as I know, he has not reprised his “tale of two cities” or his promise to tax the rich to pay for programs for the poor.

But listening on my radio show to uncensored call-ins, I think the die is cast. This election feels like the two campaigns 1993 and 1997 that featured Rudy Giuliani and David Dinkins, New York’s first black mayor. Or even like the bitter 2011 election to recall Governor Scott Walker in Wisconsin. 

The candidates will debate public safety and upscale voters will fear a return to the anarchy of the 1970s. They’ll debate inequality, but more prosperous voters will hear higher taxes. They will talk issues but voters of all stripes and economic strata will see black and white.

Given this city’s sorry history of race politics that was likely anyway, but Bill de Blasio’s clever campaign made it a certainty.

Geraldo Rivera is currently a Fox News Senior Correspondent. Click here for more information on Geraldo Rivera.

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