Bill and Hillary Clinton, who had steered clear of the Democratic primary battle, endorsed their "friend" and fellow Democrat Bill de Blasio for mayor of New York City Wednesday.
A 48-word statement released by their spokesmen said the ex-president and former secretary of state "were proud to see him run a thoughtful, creative campaign about the issues." The Clintons called de Blasio "a friend . . . for many years."
Going forward, the statement said, the Clintons "are behind him as he moves to the general election."
Hours later, the United Federation of Teachers joined most of the city's major unions in backing de Blasio over Republican nominee Joe Lhota.
"It's time for our teachers and City Hall to stand together to deliver the best education possible for our students. Bill de Blasio is the leader who will make it happen," said Michael Mulgrew, president of the union, which had supported Democratic primary runner-up Bill Thompson.
De Blasio hailed the support of the UFT and Clintons as "very, very important in terms of the eyes of the citizens and voters, but also for me personally, very gratifying."
He said he was "honored to serve" both Clintons, but he didn't discuss how they might aid his campaign.
De Blasio, along with Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, worked for the Department of Housing and Urban Development during the Clinton administration. He also was Hillary Clinton's campaign manager in 2000 when she was elected to the U.S. Senate.
De Blasio became the party's undisputed nominee Monday after Thompson bowed out of a potential primary runoff.
Mulgrew Wednesday suggested that he had a role in brokering Thompson's withdrawal from the race. He said he met with Thompson and de Blasio on Saturday. "In the end, the discussion was made that what was in the best interests of the city was to unite the Democratic Party, to make sure that a Democrat becomes the mayor of New York City," Mulgrew said. "On Monday, you saw a result of that conversation."
The city Board of Elections Wednesday announced de Blasio has 40.88 percent of the vote to Thompson's 26.25 percent after verification of machine ballots and a tally of emergency votes. Tens of thousands of affidavit, military and absentee ballots, however, must still be counted.
According to a Wall Street Journal / NBC 4 New York / Marist poll released Tuesday, de Blasio has a 3-1 lead over Lhota in the general election.