The side fight between candidates Thompson, de Blasio heats up

Democratic mayoral candidate, Bill Thompson, center, prays with

Democratic mayoral candidate, Bill Thompson, center, prays with members of clergy after they endorsed him on the steps of City Hall in Manhattan. (July 31, 2013) (Credit: Charles Eckert)

Dan Janison

Melville. N.Y. Tuesday January 26, 2010. Daniel Janison, Dan Janison

Dan Janison has been a reporter at Newsday for 10

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Neither Bill Thompson nor Bill de Blasio -- rival candidates for mayor -- have declared the Democratic primary a mano a mano contest between them. Operatives for both men say they see their candidates, and Christine Quinn, in a three-way fight for two spots in an expected Oct. 1 runoff contest.

But with Anthony Weiner's comeback effort now turning into a pornographic comedy, and three outlying candidates still in single digits, the crossfire has intensified between de Blasio, the city's elected public advocate, and Thompson, its former comptroller.

Thompson, the only African-American candidate, this week appeared intent on solidifying crucial home-community support with a speech in which he cautiously related the Trayvon Martin case to the city's controversial police search practices.

"There was a young black man who was targeted because of who he was and what he looked like and that's where there are similarities," Thompson said. "It is about suspicion, and we need to get away from that." At the same time, Thompson vies for police-union support and vows to increase NYPD staffing.

De Blasio, who presents himself as the only true change agent in the contest, accused Thompson of trying to "have it both ways" by also opposing controversial City Council measures targeting "stop-and-frisk" practices -- bills that soon-to-depart Mayor Michael Bloomberg reviles.

Thompson's campaign sent off an email titled "Deeply Offensive," accusing de Blasio of "tying himself up in knots" in an effort to misrepresent Thompson's positions. Thompson insists the bills aren't needed to "reform" stop-and-frisk policies.

The email was signed by black politicos -- Rep. Greg Meeks of Queens, and Assembly members Nick Perry and Walter Mosley of Brooklyn, all Democrats.

As New York politics goes, this spat falls way short of nuclear. Still, it reflects the advent of the primary campaign's final six weeks and the intent to cultivate bases of support.

Polls so far have showed the vote in black communities divided among the Democratic contenders. Strategists in the Thompson campaign have reacted to these by insisting on the likelihood that African-American and Latino voters will heavily favor their candidate. In recent weeks, Thompson volunteers have been leafleting in neighborhoods regarded as potential strongholds, from downtown Brooklyn to Morrisania in the Bronx.

The "two Bills" Thursday followed different approaches.

Seeking to maximize exposure, Thompson started a 24-hour campaign jaunt Thursday, featuring overnight visits to firefighters, livery cab drivers, bridge and tunnel employees, and hospital workers in the five boroughs -- the traditional glad-handing fare of many political campaigns.

Meanwhile, de Blasio took part in a rally with Bedford-Stuyvesant and Crown Heights residents against the potential closure of Interfaith Medical Center on Atlantic Avenue in Brooklyn, and touted an online ad in Spanish -- showing his propensity for identifying with causes and groups.

As side fights go -- within the greater brawl of the mayoral contest -- the one between the Bills could stand out.