Bloomberg storms to victory in New York

With 32% of precincts reporting, Bloomberg had 216,223 votes, or 56%, compared with Ferrer's 160,423 votes, or 41%.

Ferrer gathered his supporters at the Waldorf-Astoria hotel, where his grandmother once earned a living working in the kitchen. He strode through the kitchen to meet the workers last night, and said he felt "very close " to the people there.

"Now it's time for the people to speak, and their verdict is always something that you accept," he said. Ferrer had hoped to become the city's first Latino mayor.

Bloomberg, a former Democrat who was elected four years ago as the fires at the World Trade Centre smouldered, tapped into his 5 billion dollar fortune to bankroll this year's campaign and was on pace to equal his spending record of 74 million dollars from the 2001 race.

Bloomberg's first-term accomplishments included winning control of the failing city school system, repairing a crippled economy after the trade centre attack and overseeing a tremendous drop in crime.

His failures included a bungled attempt to build a new football stadium on Manhattan's West Side, and the slow pace of rebuilding at the trade centre site.

Ferrer's two main arguments were that Bloomberg, a former CEO, is cosy with national Republican leaders who are extremely unpopular in New York, and that he is an elitist who cares only about wealthy Manhattanites.

The message failed to resonate with many New Yorkers, including Democrats.

Bloomberg, a moderate who supports gay marriage and abortion rights, never came out and said he wasn't a real Republican, but his campaign slyly created that image. They formed a campaign subcommittee called " Democrats for Bloomberg," and created television advertisements with celebrity Democrats endorsing the mayor, among other tactics.

He also distanced himself from the Bush administration several times in recent months, coming out against John Roberts, the president's pick for Supreme Court chief justice.

His official schedule this fall was cleverly stacked with bipartisan appearances, diluting Ferrer's case and cutting into the Democrat's own coalition of support.

One by one, Ferrer's backers - including Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton and even former President Bill Clinton - stood next to Bloomberg in recent weeks, mostly for various city announcements.

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