Bill Thompson Says He’s Staying in the Race as Pressure Mounts

Bill Thompson tonight after his strategy meeting.

Bill Thompson tonight after his strategy meeting.

Despite mounting pressure to drop out of the mayor’s race, Bill Thompson emerged from a meeting with his highest-profile backers tonight and again refused to concede a runoff until more votes are counted.

“It continues to become clearer and clearer that there are tens of thousands of votes that are out there. We believe that the votes should be counted,” Mr. Thompson told reporters, standing in the lobby of the teacher’s union headquarters with his wife and a gaggle of supporters, including Congressmen Charlie Rangel and Hakeem Jeffries.

Public Advocate Bill de Blasio finished Tuesday night holding 40.3 percent of the vote, with 99 percent of precincts reporting–just a hair over the 40 percent threshold needed for him to avoid a runoff. But according to the latest Board of Election tally, there are nearly 80,000 paper ballots yet to be counted, including absentee, military and emergency ballots filled out by voters whose names could not be found on the rolls.

With just under 647,000 votes counted thus far, an additional 80,000 would represent approximately 12.4 percent more votes — not a trifling number, even if many are thrown out. And although emergency ballots generally follow the trends of the regular ballot, that’s not always the case for absentee ballots cast weeks earlier, especially in a fast-changing race in which the top vote-getter peaked near the end.

That means that if Mr. de Blasio dips even slightly and earns 37 percent of the 80,000 uncounted votes, those 29,600 votes plus the approximately 260,400 he got that have been counted so far would total 290,000 out of 727,000 cast–putting Mr. de Blasio below the threshold at 39.9 percent.

The BOE will begin the standard process of re-canvassing voting machine totals beginning at 10 a.m. tomorrow, and won’t even begin counting the paper ballots until Monday. And to add yet another caveat, Mr. Thompson has until Friday at midnight to withdraw his name from the runoff, or he will appear on the ballot–no matter what–if Mr. de Blasio falls below 40 percent.

But Mr. Thompson and his backers, at a private strategy session tonight at the United Federation of Teachers headquarters, decided to press forward, despite mounting pressure by other union officials, Democratic leaders–and even some of his former supporters–to drop his bid.

“The first step in that is machine canvass on Friday and Saturday, and then we’ll go from there,” he said. “We believe that the votes should be counted. We believe that people should be heard.”

UFT President Michael Mulgrew defended the decision.

“Listen, I’m willing to support the candidate who we have endorsed and I am willing to follow the path which he has asked us to do at this point. We’re going to wait the two days. And we want to see the canvass–the machine’s canvass,” he said.

“We want our votes counted!” echoed NAACP President Hazel Dukes.

Mr. Rangel further said he believed it is important for the party to unify–but only “once we know what the vote is.”

“All we need is to find out where the votes are,” he said. “I mean, we’re not talking about unification, we’re talking about counting the votes … No one disagreed that before we can go back to the people that supported him, they gotta ask how many votes are out.”

State Senator Diane Savino, another Thompson endorser present today, declined to say whether Mr. Thompson would make a final call if the numbers remained the same on Saturday.

“We all know that machine counts on election night are notoriously off. And that’s the first step in this process,” she said. “And we believe, strongly, that in a democracy, every vote has to count.”