Outgoing New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg is saying the leading Democratic candidate to replace him is running a “racist” campaign.
His comments were directed at public advocate Bill de Blasio, a come-from-behind candidate now leading in most polls ahead of Tuesday’s Democratic primary.
De Blasio is white, but he has been polling well among blacks since he began airing television ads featuring his interracial family. His wife is black and the couple has a son and a daughter.
De Blasio has said Bloomberg has not been doing enough for the poor, saying New York has become "two cities," one for the rich and one for everyone else. And Bloomberg has been a supporter of early Democratic front-runner and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn.
Bloomberg made his comment during an interview with New York magazine.
The interviewer calls de Blasio's bid "in some ways … a class-warfare campaign." Bloomberg interjects, "class-warfare and racist," according to the magazine.
However, the mayor clarified his statement by saying de Blasio is “making an appeal using his family to gain support.
“I think it's pretty obvious to anyone watching what he's been doing. I do not think he himself is racist. It's comparable to me pointing out I'm Jewish in attracting the Jewish vote."
Bloomberg, a self-made billionaire, said he also found de Blasio's "two cities" rhetoric divisive.
New York's wealthiest residents, he said, contribute tremendously to the city and also deliver a huge amount of tax revenue that gives the city financial muscle that other municipalities lack.
"By most of the world's standards, you ain't poor," said Bloomberg, noting that in some corners of the globe, people don't have access to things like air conditioning or own their own cars.
At a campaign event on Saturday, de Blasio called the remarks "very unfortunate."
A Quinnipiac University Poll released on Tuesday shows de Blasio has extended his lead and pushed past the 40 percent threshold, which would spare him a runoff with other candidates in the Democratic primary.
The poll released shows 43 percent of likely voters supporting de Blasio. Former City Comptroller William Thompson has 20 percent of the likely vote, Quinn has 18 percent and former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner has 7 percent, according to the poll.
De Blasio also leads in two key voting blocs -- blacks (47 percent) and women (44 percent), according to the poll.
Quinn and Weiner were the early leaders. However, Weiner’s run faltered after revelations in July that he had continued to send women sexually explicit messages via social media after resigning from Congress over the issue in June 2011.
Quinn’s campaign has been hurt by critics who continue to point out that in 2008 she helped lead a City Council effort to successfully overturn term limits, allowing Blooombergl to win a third term.
The likely Republican primary winner will be former Metropolitan Transportation Authority CEO Joseph Lhota, with 48 percent of likely voters now supporting him, according to the Quinnipiac poll.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.