Bloomberg Machine Hits Road Bump at Working Families

Despite a personal push by the mayor himself, the Working Families Party voted last night to deny Mike Bloomberg its nomination. Members also shot down the mayor's second-best hope -- that the party and its muscular organizing operation stay neutral in this year's race.

Instead, by a weighted vote of 75-34 with 9 abstentions, the party's coordinating committee endorsed Bloomberg's low-key rival, city comptroller Bill Thompson (pictured). The nomination is a major shot in the arm for the long-struggling Thompson. It's also the first significant speed bump for Bloomberg who has been on a steady roll towards a third term ever since he won a city council vote last fall overturning the city's term limits laws.

The vote for Thompson came despite personal last-minute appeals that Bloomberg reportedly made to leaders of key city unions that sit on the Working Families endorsement committee. The pro-Thompson forces also prevailed over intense lobbying by Bloomberg aides and allies even during the vote last night at party headquarters in downtown Brooklyn.

"Bloomberg's people were working the room all the way through the meeting, with people getting phone calls in real time, even as the vote was going on," said one who was present.

Going into the vote, many members believed that the most likely outcome was that the party would opt to stay neutral, just as it did in 2005 when Democratic candidate Freddy Ferrer fell short of the needed two-thirds votes for nomination. Bloomberg supporters within the party had also optimistically predicted that the mayor could win the nomination.

The vote is not without political risk for several unions, including the Retail workers who have been pushing the Bloomberg administration to ensure that city-subsidized developments include rules requiring that workers be paid prevailing, union-level wages.

"At the end of the day, the overwhelming sentiment in the room was that Bill Thompson was better on issues for working people in New York," said one party official.

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