Independent candidates try to shake NYC mayor race

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Associated Press

Posted on September 25, 2013 at 9:06 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — Bill de Blasio and Joe Lhota are hardly the only candidates on the ballot for New York City mayor.

The two major party nominees will be joined by a collection of lesser-known mayoral hopefuls, many of whom have little fundraising and even less of a chance of winning and are representing novelty parties like the Tax Wall Street Party and the Rent is Too Damn High Party.

But a pair of independent candidates, while longshots, could have a sizable impact on determining who does win.

Adolfo Carrion Jr. was a Democrat when he served as Bronx borough president before taking a pair of urban policy posts in President Barack Obama's administration. He left the party last year to run for mayor and secured the nomination of the city's fledgling Independence Party, sparking belief among some political observers that the general election could turn into a heated, three-way race.

It hasn't quite turned out that way, at least not yet. A Quinnipiac University poll of 891 likely voters released last week showed de Blasio, a Democrat, as the choice of 66 percent of voters with Lhota, the Republican, at 25 percent.

Carrion had 2 percent. The poll's margin of error was plus or minus 3.3 percentage points.

"I am a running to challenge the broken status quo and the busted conventional wisdom," Carrion said in an interview. He blamed the media for ignoring his candidacy in favor of "distractions" like Anthony Weiner's latest sexting scandal.

Carrion, who plans to begin advertising on television next month, admits fundraising has been a struggle.

"Conventional political givers operate in the major party lanes," he said. He has about $327,000 in campaign funds on hand, according to the city's Campaign Finance Board. De Blasio has about $710,000 while Lhota has $500,000.

Carrion said he will focus on the city's Latino population, which he calls "the sleeping giant" of the electorate. Only about 14 percent of registered Latino voters cast ballots in this month's primary.

Experts believe Carrion could make inroads with that community.

"He could eat into de Blasio's Hispanic support," said Douglas Muzzio, professor of political science at Baruch College. "But with de Blasio's lead, it doesn't seem like it would enough for him to play spoiler."

All told, there will be 15 candidates on the Nov. 5 general election ballot, according to city officials. That includes Jimmy "the Rent is Too Damn High" McMillian, who has also run for governor on the platform that the rent is indeed too high, and Erick Salgado, who obtained 2 percent of the vote during the Democratic primary and is now representing the School Choice party.

Some candidates will be on more than one ballot line, including Lhota, who has the Conservative, Students First and Taxes 2 High lines to go along with the GOP, and Jack Hidary, who is running on the Common Sense and Jobs & Education lines.

Hidary, a millionaire Internet entrepreneur who has more than $720,000 in campaign funds available, is pitching himself has a natural successor to outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg: a tech-savvy businessman who had never held office and would take a data-driven approach to governing.

"The other candidates' visions are those of career politicians," Hidary said in an interview. "I bring a different perspective and I won't be beholden to any sort of special internet."

Hidary, who unlike Bloomberg is adhering to the city's $6.4 million spending cap, is using websites like Hulu and Google to deliver targeted ads to would-be voters. He could swipe some Bloomberg supporters from Lhota, who wants to continue many of the mayor's policies, but Hidary's name recognition remains low, and he had yet to be included in any major poll.

"It's very difficult in any race to upend the entrenched system of partisan politics and it hasn't happened in this one," said Costas Panagopoulos, a political science professor at Fordham University. "I am doubtful that any of the minor candidates will have any major impact on the race."

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