By JONATHAN LEMIRE Associated Press
NEW YORK (AP) -- Calls for runner-up Bill Thompson to bow out of the New York Democratic mayoral race grew louder Thursday, as several of his prominent supporters switched allegiances to front-runner Bill de Blasio in hopes of avoiding a runoff that could weaken the winner for the general election.
The city's Democratic Party, desperate to elect its first mayor since 1989, was unable to officially rally around de Blasio, the city's public advocate, who finished Tuesday's primary with just above 40 percent of the votes. That's the threshold that would have clinched his party's nomination, but election officials said it will be at least Monday before all votes, including absentee ballots, are counted.
If de Blasio finishes with less than 40 percent of the vote total, he would face an Oct. 1 runoff against Thompson.
And Thompson, an ex-comptroller and the Democrats' 2009 nominee who narrowly lost then to incumbent Mayor Michael Bloomberg, reiterated Thursday night his stated position that all votes should be counted before he makes his decision.
"We believe that the votes should be counted," he told reporters after meeting with several powerful allies, including U.S. Reps. Charles Rangel and Gregory Meeks. "We believe that people should be heard."
Still, as some Democratic leaders consider what to do, others publicly proclaimed that they were abandoning him.
"In an election year with so many tough decisions on crucial issues, we must begin a new chapter today by uniting behind our Democratic nominee for New York City's next mayor," announced Assemblyman Walter Mosley, a former Thompson endorser. "I am proud to support Public Advocate Bill de Blasio."
By Thursday afternoon, five other state lawmakers and three city councilmen also announced they were leaving Thompson for de Blasio. They were joined by two dozen politicians and several powerful organizations, including unions, who had backed other mayoral hopefuls who lost in the primary.
De Blasio held a raucous rally on the steps of Brooklyn borough hall to welcome new supporters.
"To all of those who join us today, I say, I am thrilled to have the reinforcements," he said.
If Thompson bows out by midnight Friday, his name would not appear on the ballot for the runoff even if the final count gives de Blasio less than 40 percent, according to the city Board of Elections. In an ironic twist, that provision of election law is dubbed the Weiner Rule, after disgraced mayoral hopeful Anthony Weiner who, in 2005, conceded the Democratic primary after finishing in second-place to former Bronx Borough President Fernando Ferrer, who finished the primary with around 40 percent.
Regardless, a citywide runoff will be held for the office of public advocate.
Board of Elections officials retrieved voting machines from the polling places and will recount votes starting Friday. On Monday, officials will begin counting absentee ballots and affidavits. In total, more than 30,000 votes may not have been tallied on primary night, or the equivalent of about 4 percent of the 640,000 ballots that were counted.
For her part, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, herself a candidate, set aside any hard feelings caused by the bruising primary campaign and said she would "enthusiastically support the Democratic nominee."
"I think it's clear to most folks that person is going to be Bill de Blasio, but that's a decision for Bill Thompson to make himself," said Quinn, the race's former front-runner, in her first comments since primary night. She asked her supporters to "please rally behind the Democratic nominee as quickly as possible."
The Republican mayoral nominee, Joe Lhota, engaged in a daylong media blitz to reintroduce himself to voters. He quickly painted a potential general election matchup with the liberal de Blasio as a battle of wildly disparate visions for the city.
"Bill has a completely different philosophy than I do on how to deal with public schools, how to deal with public safety, how to create jobs, how to deal with taxes," Lhota said on WOR radio.
Associated Press writers Jennifer Peltz and Karen Matthews contributed.
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