Bill De Blasio Leads Joe Lhota In Mayoral Race, Poll Says

NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 17:  Christine Quinn (R), New York City Council Speaker and former mayoral hopeful, smiles with Demo
NEW YORK, NY - SEPTEMBER 17: Christine Quinn (R), New York City Council Speaker and former mayoral hopeful, smiles with Democratic Party nominee Bill de Blasio, while entering a news conference where Quinn endorsed de Blasio outside City Hall on September 17, 2013 in New York City. De Blasio will face Republican Joseph Lhota in the general mayoral election November 5, 2013, with the winner succeeding current Mayor Michael Bloomberg. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

By Edith Honan

NEW YORK, Sept 17 (Reuters) - New York City Democratic mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio has the support of almost two-thirds of likely voters, a wide lead over his Republican opponent, Joe Lhota, in the first poll released since he won last week's primary elections.

Less than two months before the Nov. 5 general election to replace Michael Bloomberg as mayor of America's biggest city, de Blasio leads Lhota 65 percent to 22 percent, according to the NBC 4 New York/Wall Street Journal Marist poll released on Tuesday.

De Blasio, the city's public advocate and an unabashed liberal, has promised to address the "tale of two cities" - one rich and one poor - by expanding access to early childhood education, preventing hospital closures and reigning in a controversial police tactic that targets black and Latino men.

De Blasio has campaigned as the anti-Bloomberg, while Lhota - who hopes to continue two decades of Republican and independent dominance at city hall - says he agrees with the mayor on many issues and would like to continue the city's progress in bringing the crime rate to historic lows and improving schools.

The poll suggests that Lhota, a deputy under mayor Rudolph Giuliani and later the head of the city's mass transit agency, faces an uphill battle in a city where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans six to one.

De Blasio is winning the backing of one in four likely Republican voters, while Lhota has the support of fewer than one in eight likely Democratic voters.

Lhota has cast himself as a moderate Republican and said he is well-positioned to win the support of Democrats who value his brand of fiscal conservatism and opposition to tax hikes. He held meetings on Tuesday with the city's public employees union, which endorsed de Blasio, and with civil rights leader Rev. Al Sharpton, an outspoken Democrat.

The poll comes as de Blasio's former rivals in a lengthy primary fight rally to his side.

On Tuesday, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, who had dominated the race for much of the campaign but fell behind in its final weeks as voters rallied behind de Blasio's more populist message, threw her support behind de Blasio.

"It is time for Democrats throughout our city to put aside their differences and fight together for the progressive values we all share," Quinn said in a statement.

The move comes a day after former City Comptroller Bill Thompson, who placed a distant second to de Blasio in last week's primary, bowed out of the race, eliminating the need for what may have been a bruising runoff election. (Editing by Philip Barbara)

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2013 NYC Mayoral Candidates