We in New York are at this hour surprised to learn that we've actually had an interesting mayoral race. Our billionaire mayor, Michael Bloomberg, spent what will probably amount to $100 million to assure that there would be absolutely no suspense on election night over his prospects for securing a third term. His opponent, Democrat Bill Thompson, seemed frozen for much of the campaign, buried under an avalanche of negative advertising. Few people in the city knew anything about Thompson except for what Bloomberg's misleading ads said about him. The last polls showed Bloomberg ahead, 50-38. And with Thompson outspent at 14 or maybe 16 to 1, no one expected any late surge.It now turns out that Bloomberg beat Thompson by just 5 percentage points or so, 51-46.The mild-mannered Thompson waged what seemed to be a terrible campaign, devoted mainly to assailing the brazen grab for power that occurred when Bloomberg and New York's City Council changed the city's term-limits law to award themselves a chance for a third term. Thompson never offered a vision of what he would do as mayor. And the mayor bought up the support of many of Thompson's potential allies, sometimes through his private philanthropy.New York's wealthiest resident will continue to hold its highest office. For all he may accomplish, I don't see how he can escape the shadow of having purchased his office, though. In retrospect, I think the turning point of the race came early on, when Congressman Anthony Weiner, Democrat of Brooklyn and Queens, announced he would not run. Weiner would have run a much feistier campaign than Thompson did and, given the substantial voter discontent with Bloomberg's power grab, might actually have won. Weiner dropped out after Bloomberg's aides had leaked a story saying that the Bloomberg campaign planned to spend $20 million on ads attacking Weiner. Whose reputation could withstand that?I hope folks in other parts of the country will see how such excessive spending essentially subverts the democratic process.
Paul Moses, a contributing writer at Commonweal, is the author of The Saint and the Sultan: The Crusades, Islam and Francis of Assisi's Mission of Peace (Doubleday, 2009) and An Unlikely Union: The Love-Hate Story of New York's Irish and Italians (NYU Press, 2015). Follow him on Twitter @PaulBMoses.