Before the New York mayoral race became consumed with the still-blazing fire of Carlos Danger’s self-immolation, it revolved to some extent around actual issues. One of those was public housing, a big issue in a city that has yet to find a consistent successor for the 60s-era “urban renewal”-driven huge public housing projects that are being torn down in many other cities.

As Washington Monthly intern Ben Florsheim notes at Ten Miles Square today, the Democratic candidates for mayor attended a sleepover at Harlem’s Lincoln Houses project this last weekend, organized by Al Sharpton to dramatize the issue of public housing. Yet the two front-runners up through the weekend, Weiner and Christine Quinn, have struggled to lay out any clear post-Bloomberg strategy for public housing.

For the front-runners…paying lip service at the sleepover could be a no-lose situation: they get some progressive, anti-Bloomberg cred without having to include much in their platforms that address an issue that admittedly few are eager to talk about.

Now, however, the mayor’s race is in chaos, and a candidate more likely to call for a sharp break from Bloomberg policies on public housing and many other matters, Bill Thompson, could be the beneficiary. A Quinnipiac poll taken just before the latest Weiner brouhaha erupted showed Thompson (who did surprisingly well against Bloomberg in 2009 after being counted out as a “sacrificial lamb” from the get-go) doubling his support in just nine days, and beating either Quinn and Weiner in a hypothetical runoff.

Getting to a runoff has been the big obstacle to a Thompson win, but that could now all change, particularly as Thompson’s growing viability helps him consolidate the support of his fellow African-Americans. As Slate‘s Dave Weigel puts it: “The candidate the media doesn’t really care about is in the perfect position to take advantage of the new map.”

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore is a political columnist for New York and managing editor at the Democratic Strategist website. He was a contributing writer at the Washington Monthly from January 2012 until November 2015, and was the principal contributor to the Political Animal blog.