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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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October 23rd, 2013
05:47 PM ET

Who is Bill de Blasio?

These days getting close to New York City mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio takes some maneuvering. The Democratic underdog started with 10% of his party's vote, before winning the primary in a stunning upset in New York's mayoral race.

The race was tight. De Blasio was up against New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg's favorite, Christine Quinn, and former congressman Anthony Weiner, who lost his lead after a second sexting scandal.

Since winning the primary, de Blasio has surged more than 40 points ahead of Republican contender Joe Lhota.

De Blasio has a small staff, what qualifies him to run a $70 billion budget?

"I've talked about this many, many times. I've been in public life in this city almost 25 years now," de Blasio told CNN's Deborah Feyerick.

Yet in many respects, New York City is just getting to know de Blasio and his biracial family. His 15-year-old son Dante has been prominently featured in political commercials. His daughter Chiara rallied the crowd on primary night. His wife Chirlane McCray is her husband's chief strategist. She once identified herself as lesbian.

The diverse family has been featured prominently, and to good advantage, in the campaign, says political analyst Costas Panagopoulos.

"We live in a very diverse city, that kind of personal background I think is embraced," said Panagopoulos.

"I was showing people in New York City who I am, what I believe, and how being a husband and father shape my whole understanding," said de Blasio.

De Blasio's diversity is strongly reflected in his died-in-the-wool progressive thinking. From his student roots as an anti-establishment activist fighting college tuition hikes, to his current platform closing the money gap between the city's rich and poor.

"I've asked for a modest increase in taxes on folks making a half million or more. I think it's safe to say those folks are doing well," said de Blasio.

De Blasio calls himself the "unapologetically progressive alternative to the Bloomberg era." After running America's largest city, Bloomberg is aiming for even bigger things. De Blasio is concentrating on what he feels needs fixing in New York.

"Don't shed a tear for the developers, they have done very well," said de Blasio, who said if elected, he would push real-estate developers to build or preserve 200,000 affordable homes.

He would also create universal pre-kindergarten programs, paid for by tax hikes on the city's well-to-do.

But "the electorate is not in a mood to be risky and take chances on the economy, because things can change very rapidly," said Panagopoulos.

New York City has not had a Democratic mayor in 20 years.

"Not all New Yorkers are ready to change the ship's direction. And I would venture to say they're okay with that," said de Blasio.

De Blasio is walking a fine line between progress and change. Felony crime is down almost 75% – de Blasio focused on changing policing strategies targeting minority communities.

"We can be safer, in fact, if we take the foundation, the core of what we have, and build upon it a better working relationship between police and community," said de Blasio.

But many in the city's black and Latino populations feel some of that crime reduction came at the price of civil rights.

For de Blasio it is a delicate balance as he sells his slogan of "progress," trying to convince New Yorkers the city as a whole could do better.

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