Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced Friday that he won't endorse a successor, and Joe Lhota's campaign said he was fine with that as the Republican candidate offered veiled criticism of the incumbent's leadership style.
"I've decided I'm just not going to make an endorsement in the race," Bloomberg told John Gambling during a WOR radio show appearance.
Bloomberg's once-coveted nod has lost its luster, as the three-term mayor's influence has waned and the race to succeed him has become all but a plebiscite on the 71-year-old billionaire's policies, said David Birdsell, dean of the Baruch College School of Public Affairs. "People are sick of him," Birdsell added.
In a statement Friday, Lhota spokeswoman Jessica Proud said: "Joe did not ask for the mayor's endorsement and he respects his decision to stay out of the race." The 52-year-old former MTA chief previously had said he would discuss a possible endorsement with Bloomberg after the primary.
Lhota, keenly aware that the electorate is hungry for a change from Bloomberg, has spent the past few weeks vowing to be a more accessible and consensus-building mayor.
"Many people want to pigeonhole me as an extension of Bloomberg, an extension of Mayor Giuliani, and I'm actually not either of those guys," said Lhota, himself a onetime deputy mayor to Rudy Giuliani.
During an appearance on WPIX TV Friday, Lhota said he believes that the NYPD's controversial stop-and-frisk practice would have been far more palatable to the public "if the mayor and his people went there and explained exactly what the Supreme Court allows them to do."
Hunter College emeritus professor of political science Kenneth Sherrill said Bloomberg fans would vote for, and donate money to, Lhota anyway. Surveys taken during the past few weeks show New Yorkers of both parties are ready for a change from Bloomberg.
"It's very funny," Sherrill said. "Unhappiness with Bloomberg's style of governing is nonpartisan."
The mayor's endorsement pronouncement came three days after the primary election, the outcome of which remains uncertain. While Republicans chose Lhota as their nominee, it's not entirely clear whom he would face in the Nov. 5 general election.
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio has just over the 40 percent of the vote necessary to avoid a runoff against former comptroller Bill Thompson, the second-place candidate, who has vowed to press on until all the votes are tallied.
Meanwhile, on the Democratic side, the Board of Elections began inspecting the city's 5,100 voting machines to verify the tallies -- a task that could continue until Sunday evening, said board spokeswoman Valerie Vazquez. On Monday, the board is to begin counting the nearly 80,000 paper ballots cast by voters who couldn't use the machines.
Randy Mastro -- a former deputy mayor under Giuliani, a friend of Lhota's and a Thompson fundraiser -- noted that a sizable portion of the absentee ballots could favor Thompson because some were cast before de Blasio's ascendence.
"I think that Bill Thompson has every right -- and indeed an obligation to all his supporters and New Yorkers in general -- to make sure every vote is counted," Mastro said.
Thompson had until midnight Friday to withdraw from the race or by law he couldn't stop a runoff, which would be held if de Blasio dips below 40 percent.