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NYC Mayor Bloomberg won't endorse anyone in race to succeed him

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who will leave office at the end of this year after three four-year terms, said on Friday he would not endorse the Republican or Democratic candidates running to replace him.

Bloomberg, a longtime Democrat who switched parties to first be elected mayor as a Republican and later dropped his party affiliation altogether, made the announcement days after suggesting in an interview with New York magazine that Democratic front-runner Bill de Blasio was waging a divisive campaign.

"Mike Bloomberg announces he will not be making an endorsement in Mayor's race. Will focus on governing and transition," Deputy Mayor Howard Wolfson said over Twitter following Bloomberg's regular Friday radio address.

De Blasio, who built his campaign around rising income inequality and positioned himself as a liberal alternative to Bloomberg, won the most votes in Tuesday's Democratic primary election, but will not know until next week whether he faces a run-off with former city comptroller Bill Thompson.

A run-off election would be held only if de Blasio does not surpass 40 percent of the vote.

The vote count so far shows de Blasio at just around the 40 percent threshold, with 78,000 votes still to be counted.

Thompson faces a midnight deadline to decide whether he will concede defeat now and have his name removed from any run-off ballot, but he has indicated he will ignore that deadline and wait for the final vote tally, expected by next Wednesday.

If Thompson does garner enough votes to force a run-off, he would have the option of ending his campaign and endorsing de Blasio, while still having his name appear on the ballot, according to the Board of Elections.

City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, the Democratic candidate whom Bloomberg had tacitly endorsed for the primary in his interview with New York magazine, finished a distant third in the race.

Republican Joe Lhota, who won Tuesday's Republican primary outright, had openly sought Bloomberg's endorsement.

The billionaire mayor is widely viewed as leaving a powerful legacy in public health, crime reduction and fiscal stewardship, but he has been seen increasingly as out of touch with struggling New Yorkers and tone deaf to complaints that police tactics unfairly single out young black and Latino men.

(Reporting by Edith Honan; Editing by Scott Malone, Grant McCool and Leslie Adler)

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