While Canadians were riveted to the civic melodrama that is Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, New York City changed channels completely Tuesday, electing the first Democratic mayor in 20 years.

Bill de Blasio, 52, will take office on Jan. 1 following a landslide win over Republican Joe Lhota in off-year elections Tuesday that may have flown under the radar in Canada as word of Ford's previous crack cocaine use made international headlines.

The last time a Democrat was mayor of New York City was in 1993. That's when David Dinkins left office, defeated by Republican Rudy Giuliani.

De Blasio — pronounced dih-BLAH-zee-oh — is a former associate of Hillary Clinton and New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo. At six-foot-five, de Blasio is a physically striking character, but also far different from the man who has led New York for 12 years.

While billionaire Michael Bloomberg was a centrist Republican-independent who could easily afford to fund three of his own multimillion-dollar election campaigns, de Blasio has been in politics since high school.

A graduate of New York University and Columbia University in international affairs, he worked in non-profit organizations on improving health care in Latin America.

According to his campaign website, his public service began as a junior staffer in the office of then New York Mayor Dinkins. From there, he moved through work with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and a Brooklyn school board.

In 2000, he managed Hillary Clinton's first campaign for the U.S. Senate in New York.  Then it was eight years on New York city council and a stint as the city's Public Advocate, a kind of ombudsman role.

De Blasio ran as the anti-Bloomberg, railing against economic inequality and portraying New York as a "tale of two cities" — one rich, the other working class — under the pro-business, pro-development mayor, who made his fortune from the financial information company that bears his name.

While that angered Bloomberg, it played well with New Yorkers. De Blasio ended the night Tuesday with 73 per cent of the votes, 49 points ahead of Republican Joe Lhota — an unprecedented New York mayoralty win in modern times.

De Blasio's plans include taxing the rich, a plank that obviously put him at odds with Bloomberg (who after three terms wasn’t running again) and may compromise his relationship with New York City's most visible wealth engine: Wall Street.

Racial element

"If you don't get along with Wall Street, you're really putting yourself behind the 8-ball big time," business writer and commentator William D. Cohan told CBS News in a report aired Wednesday morning.

De Blasio wants to use taxes on higher incomes to fund universal pre-kindergarten care in the city. He has also pledged to improve economic opportunities in minority and working-class neighbourhoods.

There was also a racial element to his campaign.

He decried alleged abuses under the police department's stop-and-frisk policy and got a surge of support when a federal judge ruled that police had unfairly singled out blacks and Hispanics.

The candidate, a white man married to a black woman, also got a boost from a campaign ad featuring their son, a 15-year-old with a big Afro.

That drew untypical criticism from Bloomberg in an interview with New York magazine:

"He's 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."

Laments divisive appeal

Bloomberg also lamented the divisive appeal to New Yorkers by income.

"His whole campaign is that there are two different cities here. And I’ve never liked that kind of division," he said.

"The way to help those who are less fortunate is, number one, to attract more very fortunate people. They are the ones that pay the bills. The people that would get very badly hurt here if you drive out the very wealthy are the people he professes to try to help.

"Tearing people apart with this 'two cities' thing doesn’t make any sense to me. It’s a destructive strategy for those you want to help the most."

Loading Slideshow...
  • Bill de Blasio

    Currently the city's Public Advocate, <a href="http://www.billdeblasio.com/" target="_blank">Bill de Blasio announced his bid for mayor in January 2013.</a> He has supported the paid sick leave bill,<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bill-de-blasio/humane-alternatives-for-h_b_821291.html" target="_blank"> banning horse-drawn carriages</a>, and has been fiercely <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/19/nyregion/19homeless.html" target="_blank">critical of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's homeless policies. </a>

  • Anthony Weiner

    Former Democratic congressman <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/22/anthony-weiner-2013-mayoral-race_n_3316704.html" target="_blank">Anthony Weiner finally announced his bid for mayor</a> in May after months of intense speculation by the media and politicians alike. In 2011, an embarrassing sexting scandal forced Weiner to resign from Congress. The lewd photos, along with his denial and subsequent admission, kept him out of the political spotlight until this spring.

  • John Liu

    As the city's current comptroller, <a href="http://johnliu2013.com/" target="_blank">John Liu</a> oversees New York City's finances. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/25/comptroller-john-liu-ackn_n_1378211.html" target="_blank">Despite a federal investigation accusing two former aides to Liu of breaking campaign finance laws</a>, Liu announced his candidacy for mayor in March. In a recent interview, <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20130319/new-york-city/john-liu-says-all-democratic-mayoral-candidates-are-basically-same" target="_blank">Liu said, "We are all liberal Democrats"</a> and suggested Democratic mayoral hopefuls were all the same, differing on only a few issues such as stop and frisk. If elected, Liu would become the city's first Asian-American mayor.

  • Christine Quinn

    <a href="http://www.quinnfornewyork.com/announcement?splash=1" target="_blank">Christine Quinn</a> is the current City Council Speaker of New York City. She is said to be Mayor Michael Bloomberg's favorite candidate.

  • Bill Thompson

    From 2002-2009, <a href="http://billthompsonformayor.com/" target="_blank">Bill Thompson served as New York City's Comptroller. </a> Thompson, a Democrat, ran for mayor in 2009 against Bloomberg. He was outspent 14 to 1 by Bloomberg, and still only lost by a few percentage points.

  • Adolfo Carrion Jr.

    Adolfo Carrion, Jr. was the Bronx Borough President from 2002 to 2009 and was appointed by the Obama administration as the Regional Director for HUD's New York office. <a href="http://www.carrion2013.com/" target="_blank">He is running for mayor as an independent. </a>

  • Erick Salgado

    Staten Island's <a href="http://www.salgadonyc.com/" target="_blank">Rev. Erick Salgado </a>announced his Democratic candidacy for mayor, despite a socially <a href="http://politicker.com/2013/02/erick-salgados-odd-coalition/" target="_blank">conservative agenda</a> which includes anti-gay marriage, pro-life policies.

  • Sal Albanese

    <a href="http://www.salalbanese2013.com/" target="_blank">Sal Albanese</a> is a former city council member also hoping to win the Democratic primary. He also worked as a New York City public school teacher. <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/politics/2012/12/6850576/former-brooklyn-councilman-sal-albanese-make-third-try-mayor" target="_blank">This will be his third bid for mayor of New York City. </a>

  • Joseph Lhota

    Before launching his GOP candidacy for mayor, <a href="https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&cad=rja&ved=0CDoQFjAB&url=http%3A%2F%2Fjoelhotaformayor.com%2F&ei=TOJ2UeXyAqT00QGe8oHYBA&usg=AFQjCNHVt6kspcgFB31wwgs6FO44kr2fSQ&bvm=bv.45580626,d.dmQ" target="_blank">Joseph Lhota</a> served as MTA chairman and served as the City’s Budget Director in Mayor Giuliani’s first term, and Deputy Mayor for Operations during the second. In 1999, he fought a public battle against the Brooklyn Museum to remove a portrait of the Virgin Mary containing elephant dung. <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/28/nyregion/for-lhota-mayoral-hopeful-who-lost-fight-to-remove-art-no-regrets.html?pagewanted=all" target="_blank">He lost. </a>

  • John Catsimatidis

    <a href="https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&cad=rja&ved=0CEcQFjAC&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.cats2013.com%2F&ei=SON2UaHQG6nq0gGq3oCoDw&usg=AFQjCNELoeyQyeiyb-RKgsBoAZmaMq38vA&bvm=bv.45580626,d.dmQ" target="_blank">John Catsimatidis </a>. a Republican candidate for mayor, is a billionaire supermarket mogul. He is known for his pro-NYPD policies and <a href="http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/mayoral_hopeful_john_catsimatidis_JtW3R5pgD1OwpRnbvWSuyM" target="_blank">supports the continuation of the department's controversial stop-and-frisk program. </a>

  • George McDonald

    <a href="https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&cad=rja&ved=0CEwQFjAC&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.mcdonald2013.com%2F&ei=9uN2Ub7OAc-C0QGmooCQCA&usg=AFQjCNFKEjqwcjPtmMrF_o2C8pw_dLzGjA&bvm=bv.45580626,d.dmQ" target="_blank">George McDonald</a> is the founder and president of The Doe Fund, a non-profit that seeks to help homeless and formerly incarcerated individuals find work. He has never held public office. He initially identified himself as a Democrat but has since switched to the Republican party. McDonald has received criticism for trying to challenge <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/25/nyregion/george-t-mcdonald-ends-effort-t-o-sidestep-a-city-cap-in-mayors-race.html" target="_blank">campaign contribution limits. </a>

  • Anthony Weiner

    Former Democratic congressman <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/22/anthony-weiner-2013-mayoral-race_n_3316704.html" target="_blank">Anthony Weiner finally announced his bid for mayor</a> in May after months of intense speculation by the media and politicians alike. In 2011, an embarrassing sexting scandal forced Weiner to resign from Congress. The lewd photos, along with his denial and subsequent admission, have since dogged his political career, but a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/28/anthony-weiner-nyc-mayor_n_3347673.html" target="_blank">recent poll revealed many New Yorkers were willing to forgive and forget</a>, with voters putting him at second only behind frontrunner Christine Quinn.