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Bill De Blasio becomes New York Mayor

06 November 2013, 13:10

New York - Bill de Blasio, who won a landslide victory as mayor of New York on Tuesday, is a progressive Democrat who now faces a monumental task in governing the biggest US city.

By placing his black, former lesbian wife Chirlane and teenage children centre stage, the 52-year-old public advocate connected to middle-class families and the city's diverse electorate.

His public sector career and progressive policies are the polar opposite of outgoing billionaire mayor Michael Bloomberg and sit at odds with the gigantic overt wealth on display in New York.

Making much of his "modest" home in Brooklyn's gentrified neighbourhood of Park Slope, he presented himself as an ordinary guy determined to improve education and make housing affordable.

"My fellow New Yorkers today you spoke out loudly and clearly for a new direction for our city, united by a belief that our city should leave no New Yorker behind," he said late on Tuesday.

The real work had just begun, he said, warning supporters to be under no illusions about the difficulty of tackling inequality.

"The problems we set out to address will not be solved overnight but make no mistake, the people of this city have chosen a progressive path," he said.

A difficult childhood

Born in New York in 1961, he was brought up in Massachusetts. He went to New York University and Columbia University, before joining city hall and giving his career to the public sector.

He has spoken about a difficult childhood as the son of an alcoholic, World War II vet of German background who walked out and later committed suicide after being diagnosed with cancer.

De Blasio is his mother's maiden name and in his acceptance speech he paid tribute to his Italian family, also speaking briefly in Spanish in a nod to his cross-roots support.

A towering figure physically, he was a regional housing official under President Bill Clinton and a manager for Hillary Clinton's New York Senate race in 2000.

He sat on the city council for eight years and in 2010 was sworn in as public advocate, essentially ombudsman.

De Blasio has campaigned hard against the yawning gulf between rich and poor, "a tale of two cities" and for minority rights.

He has traded heavily on his family.

Like the Clintons, he and his wife, Chirlane McCray, have run as a package. Poet, editor, feminist and activist, she is a constant fixture by his side.

Their 16-year-old son Dante, instantly recognisable by his halo of Afro hair, has been credited with helping to turn around the campaign with an emotive TV ad about how great his dad is.



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