NEW YORK (AP) -- Mayor Michael Bloomberg on Monday wouldn't confirm a published report that said he paid for a poll to convince police Commissioner Ray Kelly to run to replace him in City Hall.
The poll, reported Monday in The New Yorker magazine, appears to be the latest sign of Bloomberg's disenchantment with the field fighting to succeed him. The magazine said that Bloomberg used his longtime pollster in June to convince Kelly he could win but Kelly declined to enter the race.
The mayor, whose 12 years in office will run out at year's end, was questioned about the report at the end of a press conference announcing the city's largest gun bust in recent memory.
"I don't know where that came from, and we're here to talk about guns," a testy Bloomberg replied. "Let's get serious."
Bloomberg, now an independent though he was first elected in 2001 as a Republican, has repeatedly criticized the Democratic mayoral candidates.
Many political observers expect him to eventually back City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, a frequent ally. Quinn helped Bloomberg overturn the city's term limits so he could run again four years ago, and, of the Democrats, her views most closely mirror his.
But while Bloomberg frequently speaks highly of Quinn, he has stopped short of giving her an endorsement. Some observers believe he might wait until after the Democratic primary, since his backing likely would be more helpful in a general election if Quinn secures the nomination.
Bloomberg and Quinn have clashed frequently of late, including over the fate of the New York Police Department's stop-and-frisk policy, which it uses to question people it deems suspicious. Last week, a judge appointed a federal monitor to oversee the program. Bloomberg plans to appeal; Quinn urged him not to.
Late last year, Bloomberg also asked former U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to run, according to several people close to the mayor who were not authorized to speak about the private conversation. Neither Bloomberg nor Clinton addressed the report, and she declined to run.
Meanwhile, the increasingly bizarre Democratic race took another strange turn Monday when an 84-year-old newspaper editor who backs Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, the race's new front-runner, slapped a pair of Quinn supporters at a Manhattan campaign event.
George Capsis, the publisher of WestView News, slapped state Sen. Brad Holyman and a campaign volunteer.
"If you bring him over here, I'll hit him again," Capsis told reporters as he gestured at the volunteer.
Capsis, who wasn't arrested, told reporters he was upset at Quinn for not helping save a hospital that closed in her City Council district. Quinn later released a statement denouncing the incident.
More than a half-dozen Democratic mayoral candidates, including ex-Congressman Anthony Weiner, are competing in the Sept. 10 primary. Three major Republican candidates and independent Adolfo Carrion Jr. also are running.
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