De Blasio, who worked in President Bill Clinton's administration and ran Hillary Rodham Clinton's Senate campaign before being elected to the City Council and then public advocate, also showcased his interracial family throughout the campaign. One TV commercial starring his Afro-sporting 15-year-old son, Dante, is already regarded as an iconic political ad.
That momentum propelled him over the 40 percent mark needed to avoid a runoff, an unthinkable occurrence for much of the year.
Lhota was head of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority when Superstorm Sandy struck last year and received widespread acclaim for getting the subways, trains and tunnels back quickly. He became the darling of the Republican Party, though Lhota had never before run for office.
After a tougher-than-expected primary challenge from billionaire grocery store magnate John Catsimatidis, he spent weeks needling de Blasio about the Democrat's time in Nicaragua in the 1980s with the left-wing Sandinistas, a topic that most voters met with a shrug.
In the campaign's stretch run, he began to effectively showcase his bipartisan credentials — he worked for Giuliani, a Republican, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat — and boasted that, unlike de Blasio, he has run large organizations. He also unleashed harsh rhetoric and a hard-hitting TV ad suggesting that the city could return to its crime-filled ways if de Blasio won.
He made some inroads in the polls but still trails by nearly 40 points with just days to go.
"It seems like the city wants a Democrat right now," said Christina Greer, political science professor at Fordham University. "Five terms of heavy-handed government has tired people out. People are ready for something different."