The Ad That Won the New York Mayor’s Race

Bill de Blasio's son, Dante, is a big reason why he could be the next mayor of New York

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Mario Tama / Getty Images

Democratic candidate for mayor and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio greets the crowd while arriving at his primary night party on Sept. 10, 2013 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City

It’s fitting that the campaign to succeed a media mogul mayor may have turned on a television ad.

New York City Public Advocate Bill de Blasio handily won the city’s Democratic primary Tuesday, though it’s not yet clear if he had enough votes avoid a runoff with the second place finisher, former Comptroller Bill Thompson. It could take up to a week to count all of the ballots. Joe Lhota, a deputy mayor under Rudy Giuliani, won the Republican race.

A longshot at the outset, de Blasio benefitted from a well-timed sexting scandal and an electorate ready for change after 12 years of Mayor Michael Bloomberg. But the defining moment of the onetime political operative’s populist campaign was a shrewd 30-second ad.

“I want to tell you a little bit about Bill de Blasio,” says an African-American teenager in a kitchen — identified only as a 15-year-old named Dante from Brooklyn – as the ad opens. “He’s the only Democrat with the guts to really break from the Bloomberg years,” Dante continues, before listing the ways de Blasio would do just that. Over images of de Blasio with his family, the ad ends with the line: “Bill de Blasio will be a mayor for every New Yorker, no matter where they live or what they look like and I’d say that even if he weren’t my Dad.”

It was a sharp message, with a savvy delivery. The topics it covered – the city’s stop-and-frisk policing policy, stagnant middle class wages and rising housing costs – tapped into the frustration and anger of voters who feel left out of Bloomberg’s prosperous global city. Having Dante make the case allowed de Blasio to establish himself as the anti-Bloomberg without seeming inflammatory. If Bloomberg could come off as an imperious, Manhattan-centric mayor who favored the wealthy, the ad cast de Blasio as his foil: a Brooklyn family man with a black wife and son who would look out for the entire city.

“It was definitely the electoral equivalent of soft power,” says William Cunningham, a former communications director for Mayor Bloomberg. “He didn’t have to hit you in the face with what he was trying to say with the image of his son.”

That image turned the telegenic Dante into a viral star. The Wall Street Journal reported on his interest in one day entering politics, while the New York Daily News talked to classmates at his Brooklyn public school to find out that the “mayoral campaign celeb” is “just a student to his friends.” When Dante appeared onstage for his father’s victory speech Tuesday night, TV news commentators made sure to note his hairstyle.

(MORE: The Anti-Bloomberg Surges in New York Mayoral Race)

“Everybody is talking about Dante’s afro,” says Cunningham. “After 20 years of Bloomberg and Giuliani, [New Yorkers] were ready for a change, and he gave them a very distinct picture of what his change would look like.”

Timing helped, too. The ad ran the first week of August, days before de Blasio took his first lead in the polls, and not long after former Congressman Anthony Weiner’s candidacy imploded following his latest sexting disclosures. Weiner had been staking out the liberal ground. Once he was relegated to a sideshow, de Blasio surged ahead. (Weiner finished fifth Tuesday, with barely five percent of the vote.)

De Blasio was further aided by a federal court ruling that found Bloomberg’s stop-and-frisk policy unconstitutional on the grounds that it disproportionately targeted minorities. He was the only leading candidate who called for an end to the policy before the ruling. That stance helped endear him to African-American voters and drew a stark contrast with the Thompson, the only African-American in the race. “Thompson is black, but he’s not giving voice to that anger, that’s just not his style. De Blasio is filling the vacuum,” says Dan Gerstein, a Democratic communications consultant.

Since the “Dante” ad ran, de Blasio built a steady lead that he never relinquished. Whether it’s in a runoff in three weeks or a general election on Nov. 5, time will tell if Dante can do it again for his dad.

SEE ALSO:  The Big Surprise of Martin Luther King’s Speech

18 comments
united_we_stand
united_we_stand

Anybody but the gun grabbing corporate commie. Bloomberg even called him racist for using the black kid in the ad. Apparently Bloomberg not only doesn't believe in the right to bear arms but he thinks its unfair to allow blacks the right to free speech. He is the prototypical big-government openly racist democrat. Outside of NYC, he couldn't get away with pretending to be a republican.

Daklds
Daklds

Next-to-last paragraph should be "with Thompson", not "with the Thompson".

Openminded1
Openminded1

This guy will be the best mayor of New York in the past 12 years. hope he makes it to the office, New York needs a non-racist like him. good luck new Yorkers the rich jew is gone.

hummingbird
hummingbird

Even before de Blasio surged ahead in the polls, I was stating in discussions that he has the widest appeal out of all of the candidates. White, black (minority), gay, poor and middle class voters can all feel a connection to him in some kind of way. Mayor Bloomberg clearly only cared about white, rich people. He's letting his bigotry run amok now that he's leaving office. He wasn't a mayor for everyone at all.

eagle11772
eagle11772

Christine Quinn, a lesbian married to a lesbian, lost decisively tonite to de Blasio, who is a white guy married to a black woman who describes herself as a "former lesbian". May you live in interesting times......

Openminded1
Openminded1

@united_we_stand true the two most racist guys in politics Bloomberg and Obama what a pair, one a jew the other a muslim what a book they could wright together.

Daklds
Daklds

Apparently, Time doesn't care about fixing elementary mistakes like this.

Openminded1
Openminded1

@hummingbird just like Obama is racism is now showing to most of you morons that voted for him twice. he is just like bloomberg he is alame duck who no longer needs whitey's vote so he now can be president of black america for the next 3 years.

arvay
arvay

@eagle11772 

Whoever you are, you have an eerie talent for focusing on  the irrelevant. 

hummingbird
hummingbird

Your comment reeks of stupidity. Obviously you're not aware that Obama has many white relatives whom he loves dearly eg.his late maternal grandparents. You don't even realize that he has mainly white men in his cabinet. Some of you just love to hate Obama so much that you don't even use common sense before you say dumb things about him. Also, just remember that the last 3 GOP Presidents crashed the economy and did nothing to improve the lives of poor and middle class Americans. But some of you only need guns and bigotry and not education, healthcare and jobs.

Openminded1
Openminded1

@hummingbird @Openminded1 And do not bother answering i know you can not help yourself and you are reading my post because you are weak, i do not need another dumb answer from a moron.

Openminded1
Openminded1

@hummingbird @Openminded1 hey did you go to Howard the black university? i understand the teach racism 101 on how to hate whitey, is that true. Or did you go there just to meet black guys. because if you went there for that you could have just moved to detroit or gary indiana you would be over joyed with the amount of black faces.

Openminded1
Openminded1

@hummingbird @Openminded1 My grammar moron is being type at 120 words a minute.And I unlike you had to work 10 hours a day as police officer ,while still trying to get my degree. It took 5 years. I retired at age 52 11 years ago at the rank of Commander which is a one star chief. I made sense moron you just do not want to believe it. that is typical of naive people like you. you run your mouths and do not know about the real world. By the way college educations do not teach you about conduct, your parents maybe but not conduct, unless you went to a catholic school or maybe BYU with the other mormon cult cases. And my college very well know with full accreditation in southern calif.And you moron was the one in you remember and read back your post that started out calling me stupid. miss civil. I am aman who says it like it is not a PC moron. PC is for people who lie and politicians , oh wait that is one in the same. And little naive girl profanity is used by senators, congressmen, military generals and even Presidents. Grow up and get in to the real world. As for my grammar and punctuation i will keep up with the best of any so called college educated person out there. You try typing 120 words minute, see how well you do. and college is not what taught me about life silly , 30 years on the streets as cop taught me about real life not the fantasy you live in. So as i say to most dummy's and ass holes go f-your self.

hummingbird
hummingbird

@Openminded1 @hummingbird Obviously you're incapable of responding to someone w/out being obnoxious. If you truly went to college then your education is NOT showing as you ought to know how to have a civil discussion.

I prefer to have discussions with people who make sense and know how to be civil. My college education and my parents, of course, taught me how to conduct myself and being rude was never a lesson I was given.

Your grammar is quite poor so maybe the college you graduated from should lose its accreditation. Goodbye! Don't bother to reply as I won't read your comments.

Openminded1
Openminded1

@hummingbird ps; by the way how do you know he loved his mom and grandma dearly were you living with them, or you heard the two times in 6 years he mentioned them. I also noticed the only other family member living in the white house is his mother in law also black, no white relatives visiting the white house nor living there.

Openminded1
Openminded1

@hummingbird You dummy i am aware of his white side,if you read some of my 3000 plus post you will discover I am half black and white just like your buddy Obama. The difference is I know both sides of my heritage having lived in both worlds. I know blacks are far more racist in 2013 then whites , I taught my kids not to be racist and to embrace both of there worlds and they have  and done very well in life. You assume that my comments are racist because you are a liberal moron or black yourself. Obama is a muslim his entire black side is muslim. I guess you did not know his brother malik in kenya works for the MB. That his dad and step dad were muslims. His comments made in public does not take a genius to fiqure  out he is a racist. You are just not use to a black man saying it like it is. i spent 30 years as a cop in a major city I know racism when i see it and hear it. and blacks are far more racist then whites. Obama did love his mom and grand mom most likely since they raised him in the white world in hawaii not the hood . By the way is dad was not to be found much in his life typical black male bs. And you assume I am a GOP guy. I do not vote along party lines like you bleeding heart libs. And i did not vote for the black man like all blacks do because he was black. he fooled all you morons with his charm and smile and you voted for him twice. his true color has come out and none of it is white. Trayvon could have been him or his son, what bull crap. By the way dummy I have a education with a bachelor degree in Criminal justice. Yes I carried agun in Vietnam and 30 years a police officer, it goes with the turf. So you digest all that moron and worry about your own stupidty.

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