NEW YORK - Bill de Blasio was the projected winner of the New York mayoral race Tuesday, signaling a new era for a city whose new leader promises to undo much of what Michael Bloomberg accomplished.
De Blasio, who vowed to narrow the gap between the rich and poor and reform controversial policing tactics, is the first Democrat elected mayor of the nation's largest city since 1989.
Going into Tuesday's race, de Blasio was highly favored to succeed Bloomberg. Democrats have a 6-to-1 voter registration advantage over Republicans.
At an election party in Brooklyn, de Blasio celebrated his victory alongside his wife, Chirlane McCray, daughter Chiara and son Dante, who became a mini-celebrity after his starring role in a much-talked about campaign ad for his dad.
The former city councilman ran a campaign focused on helping the middle class and reforming Bloomberg's controversial stop-and-frisk policy that often pitted the NYPD against civil rights groups. During the campaign, de Blasio said he was the candidate who could "offer an unapologetic progressive alternative to the Bloomberg era." He pledged this to voters: "The tale of two cities will be in our past."
Ed Cox, the state GOP chairman, worries that de Blasio's plan to raise taxes on those making more than $500,000 a year to expand after-school programs and to create universal pre-K programs will drive the wealthy out of New York.
"Great cities always have great inequalities," said Cox, adding that he thinks the mayor-elect's plans will also cause crime to go up and hurt New York's charter school system.
Still, Ester Fuchs, a political science professor at Columbia University, said she thinks de Blasio will build on some of Bloomberg's effective policies, such as the city's 311 call system for quality of life issues, the city's environmental sustainability plans and job training programs.
"A lot of the dissatisfaction was about Blomberg personality not his policy," she said. "They (voters) want a mayor who is more sympathetic to ordinary people."
De Blasio's road to his new position didn't come easy. In the Democratic primaries, he beat out a number of candidates, including William Thompson, de Blasio's closest rival and the 2009 Democratic nominee for mayor, and Christine Quinn, who tried to become the first female and first openly gay mayor of New York.
Voters also rejected Anthony Weiner and Eliot Spitzer, who were seeking redemption after sex scandals derailed their once-promising careers.
Weiner had hoped to be elected mayor and refused multiple calls by critics to resign. He briefly led public opinion polls in the mayor's race. But support dwindled after he admitted he continued to send seedy messages to women through the Internet - even after his sexting habit forced him to resign from Congress in 2011.
Spitzer, who resigned as governor in 2008 after admitting he paid for sex with prostitutes, briefly led the race to become the Democratic nominee for city comptroller. He was defeated by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer.
Now that de Blasio has been elected, he will immediately have to work on several key issues facing New York.
Most notably, the mayor-elect will have to enter talks with unions about expired contracts for municipal workers, said Carol Kellermann of the Citizens Budget Commission, a fiscal watchdog group.
"The unions have made it clear they expect raises and that they should have retroactive raises," Kellermann said. "They are all expecting to negotiate right away with the new mayor."
De Blasio will have to figure out how much money he wants to spend on employee salaries, infrastructure and capital investments, and whether he wants to add to New York's already $100 billion debt, she said.
Lee Miringoff, director of the Marist Institute for Public Opinion, said New Yorkers are most concerned about two things: jobs and the economy. After that comes education and crime, he said.
And while some voters polled think Bloomberg did a decent job, many are ready for the change, Miringoff said.
"People do want to turn the page and move in a new direction," he said. "De Blasio seems to be the candidate for that."