It's one for the history books.
Mayor Bloomberg romped his way to a second term for mayor last night, crushing Democrat Fernando Ferrer 58.5% to 38.7% - the widest margin ever for a Republican mayor of New York.
With all precincts counted, Bloomberg had thrashed Ferrer by 19.8 percentage points - just eclipsing Fiorello LaGuardia's 1937 win and ensuring that a Republican holds the keys to City Hall for an unprecedented fourth consecutive term.
Before a cheering throng of supporters at Manhattan's Sheraton New York, Bloomberg declared not just a victory but a mandate for the results-oriented style he has used to drive down crime and improve city schools since 2001.
"I will continue to lead ... honestly and independently, by always putting people's interest ahead of the political interests and the special interests," said Bloomberg, who pays himself $1a year in salary. "That's why you hired me four years ago, andthat's why you rehired me tonight - and I'm not even asking for a raise."
Ferrer threw in the towel about an hour earlier in a brief phone call to the mayor.
"Thanks, Freddy. You're a gentleman to call," Bloomberg told the ex-Bronx borough president.
Soon after, Ferrer conceded at the nearby Waldorf-Astoria, telling supporters he was proud of a campaign that shined a light on the daily struggles faced by the city's poor.
But despite Ferrer's clarion call of "two cities" - a theme he used to convey the widening gap between rich and poor - voters clearly decided that Bloomberg had earned a second term.
It was a remarkable turnaround for a mayor who, just 21/2 years ago, was among the least popular mayors in city history, polls showed - an accidental politician with a tin ear who raised property taxes and banned smoking in bars.
But even as his popularity plummeted, Bloomberg kept thecity moving forward - creating a record of higher school test scores, declining crime and animproving city economy that seemed to pay big dividends yesterday.
"He created a record of achievement," said longtime political consultant George Arzt. "But he also gives off an aura that the city is getting better."
Bloomberg, whose personal fortune is estimated to be at least $4 billion, also had an unlimited bank account to promote that record.
As of yesterday, his campaign had reported spending a staggering $66.3 million - which didn't even include the $249,765 tab for his swank victory party last night. For his 721,229 votes, he spent about $92 per voter.
As late as 7 p.m. yesterday, voters were being bombarded with pretaped phone calls from Bloomberg, urging voters to hit the polls in a race he called "closer than they say."
But for all his spending, voters yesterday seemed more focused on what they described as Bloomberg's no-nonsense style and his record of getting things done, even in a city where the bureaucracy often moves at glacial speed.
They included many die-hard Democrats who said they held their noses but voted for Bloomberg on the Republican Party line.
"I have never voted for a Republican in my life," said Arthur Gordon, 69, a retired teacher from Hell's Kitchen in Manhattan. "But if you've got a good thing going, why change it?"
At the same time, many voters said they were left cold by Ferrer, who often seemed more focused on lampooning Bloomberg as an out-of-touch Manhattanite than on presenting a clear vision for how to run the city better.
"As a Latina, I have been hearing from everybody, 'Vote for the Latin guy,'" said Jalma Guevara, 28, a registered Democrat who voted for Bloomberg. "But unless I know what the Latin guy has done, I can't put my vote out for him."
Aides to the mayor were overjoyed last night with the winning margin, which they said would be a mandate for pushing the mayor's agenda.
Some of the ideas Bloomberg can be expected to advocate include stiffening gun laws, creating seven new elite high schools and giving the city a greater voice in developing Ground Zero.
Aides also hinted that Bloomberg finally may try to tackle runaway Medicaid and pension costs, which are controlled largely by Albany but have been busting the city's budgets for years.
Bloomberg also promised no new taxes for the coming fiscal year, which begins July 1, although he offered few if any details on how he would close a projected $4.5 billion gap in a budget he must address by January.
If Bloomberg's 19.8-point margin holds, it would beat LaGuardia's 19.7-point spread in 1937, the Republican record. It also would surpass Giuliani's biggest win in 1997, when he beat Democrat Ruth Messinger by 17.3 percentage points.
With Rich Schapiro
Originally published on November 9, 2005