New York (CNN) -- New York mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio, who began his campaign as a long-shot but surfed a late wave of momentum by tapping into liberal anxiety over the three-term administration of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, overwhelmed his opponents on Tuesday to finish first in the city's Democratic mayoral primary.
With results still being counted late Tuesday evening, de Blasio, the city's public advocate, was bobbing around the 40% mark needed to avoid a three-week runoff race for the Democratic nomination.
Early Wednesday the New York City board of elections confirmed that there were still over 19,000 absentee ballots, special ballots, affidavits, and military ballots that needed to be counted, and that the number of uncounted votes could increase.
"We don't declare a winner until every vote is counted," said Valerie Vazquez, NYC Board of Elections director of communications, said in a statement.
If De Blasio is forced into a runoff, he would face the second place finisher, former city comptroller Bill Thompson, the race's lone African-American candidate.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, a lesbian who would have been the city's first female mayor, finished in a disappointing third place, her once-invincible campaign collapsing under the weight of her ties to Bloomberg.
City comptroller John Liu finished fourth, followed in a distant fifth by former Rep. Anthony Weiner, whose candidacy imploded earlier this summer after he admitted to having more lewd conversations with women he met on the Internet.
Republican Joe Lhota, the former top deputy to Rudy Giuliani, won his party's nomination, defeating John Catsimatidis, the colorful grocery store maven who pumped millions from his personal fortune into the race.
If de Blasio wins the nomination, he would enter the general election as the clear favorite against Lhota.
Down the ballot, former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer's bid for political redemption was thwarted in the Democratic race for city comptroller by Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer, who reversed Spitzer's early lead in the race by reminding voters of the prostitution scandal that derailed his political career in 2008.
De Blasio, the city's public advocate, frequently hammered a "tale of two cities" theme on the campaign trail, painting Bloomberg's New York as an increasingly unaffordable metropolis that rewarded wealthy Manhattanites at the expense of the outer borough middle class.
A Brooklyn resident who showcased his interracial family in television ads, de Blasio ran up sweeping margins in nearly every borough and demographic category, besting his opponents among voters of all ages, races and income levels.
According to exit polling published by the New York Times, de Blasio, who is white, even outperformed Thompson among black voters.
Though Democrats were split on their opinion of Bloomberg's job performance -- 49% approved, according to the Times exit poll data, while 48% disapproved -- almost three quarters said they wanted the city to move in a new direction. De Blasio performed best among voters who were sour on the mayor.
By a wide margin, Democratic voters said they disapproved of the New York Police Department's aggressive "stop-and-frisk" policy, a Bloomberg-backed tactic that grants police the power to search random citizens they deem suspicious.
The policy is deeply unpopular among African-Americans who consider it racial profiling, and de Blasio won a majority of Democrats who described the tactic as "excessive."