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De Blasio, Thompson vie for black voters in Harlem

Democratic mayoral candidate Bill Thompson greats voters along

Democratic mayoral candidate Bill Thompson greats voters along West 125th Street in Manhattan. (Sept. 5, 2013) Credit: Charles Eckert

Democratic mayoral candidates Bill de Blasio and Bill Thompson Thursday found themselves campaigning blocks apart in Harlem, on the historically black neighborhood's West 125th Street stretch.

The public advocate and former comptroller are fighting for black voter support as they count down to Tuesday's primary.

De Blasio has 47 percent support among black Democrats likely to vote, compared with 25 percent for Thompson, the campaign's only African-American candidate, and 6 percent for City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, a Quinni-piac poll on Tuesday showed.

"When we scheduled this, I don't think we checked to see where he was going to be," Thompson said of de Blasio. Thompson called nearly crossing paths "a little strange, but . . . bound to happen in campaigns."

Thompson, who lives in Harlem, stopped passersby and greeted them as he walked, taking photos with many. Aides and volunteers chanted, "Vote Tuesday for Thompson."

At an intersection three blocks away, de Blasio drew a large crowd of onlookers and news media. Supporters elbowed their way through the scrum to meet him, get their photo taken with him and ask questions.

De Blasio left for another campaign stop before Thompson made it to where he had been standing.

Later in the day, de Blasio called Harlem a "neighborhood that's very, very politically active, a neighborhood that's symbolically crucial to the city and the nation."

Safiyyah Abdus-Sabur, 58, of Harlem, a medical technician, took a photo of Thompson with her cellphone but said she backed de Blasio. "He represents more people in New York, because he has a multicultural family," she said. Of Thompson, she said, "I don't know who he is or what he represents."

De Blasio's family, especially son Dante, 16, and his memorable Afro, has been front and center in ads and on the trail.

Thompson backer Derrek Pittman, 45, of Harlem, a jewelry vendor, said a Dante-centric ad backfired with him and seemed to him a disingenuous play for black votes.

Pittman said he likes Thompson as someone who "knows you would get more by being yourself" and "is going to do the right thing for the people."

Basil Smikle, a political consultant who has worked with former Sen. Hillary Clinton and Mayor Michael Bloomberg and lives in Harlem, said the fight for votes in Harlem has been particularly heated this campaign. "It's the symbolic soul of black America and that's one place you want to do well."

In the Republican mayoral race, front-runner and former MTA chairman Joe Lhota said in a Fox 5 "Good Day NY" interview Thursday that former Mayor Rudy Giuliani would be campaigning on his behalf this weekend.

Lhota was a deputy mayor in the Giuliani administration. Lhota's campaign did not respond to a request for details of when or where Giuliani would be stumping.

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