Bill Thompson publicly vowed to keep fighting to become mayor of New York City Wednesday, even as top supporters believed that he was weighing privately whether to pursue hopes for a long-shot runoff race against Democratic rival Bill de Blasio.
With more than 99 percent of precincts reporting, de Blasio captured 40.3 percent of Tuesday's vote, just above the 40 percent threshold needed to avoid an Oct. 1 runoff with Thompson, who got 26.2 percent. Thousands of paper ballots remain to be counted.
"I think that Bill de Blasio is over 40 percent by about 780 votes," said Thompson, 60. "I want to make sure that every voice is heard, that every vote is counted," he told reporters Wednesday after a 9/11 commemoration event.
The United Federation of Teachers union, which spent $2.7 million supporting Thompson, Wednesday said it's awaiting "the final count."
Meanwhile, the building and retail workers unions (Service Employees International Union, Local 32BJ and Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union) threw their support Wednesday night for third-place candidate Christine Quinn to de Blasio, further fueling doubts about Thompson's chances of mobilizing new support.
Merryl Tisch, Thompson's campaign chairwoman and the state Board of Regents chancellor, said de Blasio's victory was "clear" and that overcoming his lead would be "a very steep climb."
Asked whether he would concede for the sake of uniting the Democratic Party before its nominee faces Republican contender Joe Lhota on Nov. 5, Thompson said, "Did Bill de Blasio get to 40 percent? I mean, at this point, with an incomplete count, he might have, but then again, we don't know that."
The Board of Elections' certification and recount process is expected to stretch into next week. The commissioners will re-examine votes Friday and tally at least 19,000 emergency, absentee, affidavit and special ballots Monday, spokeswoman Valerie Vazquez said. She expected more absentee and affidavit ballots to arrive Tuesday.
If Public Advocate de Blasio's count dips under 40 percent, a runoff would cost the city about $13 million.
"I would imagine that Bill Thompson is having some very important and significant conversations today and we'll see where that leads," Tisch said. The former comptroller has earned the right to "deliberate carefully."
A Thompson campaign spokesman declined to respond to her comments.
Former Sen. Al D'Amato, a Republican who bundled nearly $70,000 in contributions for Thompson, said: "Knowing Bill, the decision will be based on what he perceives to be in the best interest of the city . . . not the Democratic Party."
The de Blasio campaign is seeking to consolidate support, picking off backers of Quinn, the City Council speaker, and Comptroller John Liu. In announcing its backing for de Blasio Wednesday night, the building workers union said: "We look forward to throwing our very robust field operation into full gear to elect Bill de Blasio."
Thompson Wednesday said he had spoken briefly with Quinn and Liu but has not yet asked for their endorsements. A Quinn spokesman said the campaign has not decided whom it will back. Liu's team said it has had brief discussions with the de Blasio and Thompson camps, but a spokeswoman did not elaborate.
Democratic political consultant Joseph Mercurio, who is not associated with any campaigns, said Thompson's chances of topping de Blasio in a runoff would be "slim to none," considering de Blasio's broad support across demographic lines.