- The seemingly endless race to replace New York Mayor Bill de Blasio will cross a key threshold on Tuesday as Democrats and Republicans host their primary elections.
- Given Democrats' dominance in city politics, that party's primary is being closely watched, as it will likely determine who will lead the nation's largest city out of more than a year of pandemic-induced shutdowns
- While the early focus of the race was on Andrew Yang, the nationally recognizable former presidential candidate, recent polls have shown that the contest is wide open. Eric Adams, Brooklyn borough president and a retired police officer, has held the lead in recent polling.
The seemingly endless race to replace New York Mayor Bill de Blasio will cross a key threshold on Tuesday as Democrats and Republicans host their primary elections.
Given Democrats' dominance in city politics, that party's primary is being closely watched, as it will likely determine who will lead the nation's largest city out of more than a year of pandemic-induced shutdowns and economic devastation.
While the early focus of the race was on Andrew Yang, the nationally recognizable former presidential candidate, recent polls have shown that the contest is wide open. Eric Adams, Brooklyn borough president and a retired police officer, has held the lead in recent polling.
In all, eight major Democratic candidates and two Republicans are vying to succeed de Blasio, a progressive Democrat who is barred from running for a third term after serving eight years in office.
While primary day is Tuesday — June 22 — early voting is already underway. Early voting opened on June 12 and concluded Sunday. Initial reports suggested that turnout ahead of primary day was more sluggish than anticipated.
Primary elections are tricky to predict in the best of times, but this race is likely to be even more up in the air, thanks to a change in the voting rules.
For the first time this year, the election will feature ranked-choice voting, allowing voters to name their top five preferred candidates in order.
With ranked-choice systems, counting ballots proceeds in rounds. If, in the first round, no individual candidate is the top choice of 50% of voters, the candidate that places last will be eliminated. In the next round, the voters who picked the eliminated candidate as their top choice will have their second choices counted. That process will be repeated until a candidate passes the 50% mark.
A poll conducted earlier this month that factored in ranked-choice voting found that Adams would win in the 12th round. The poll, sponsored by WNBC, Telemundo 47 and Politico, found that Kathryn Garcia, a former New York City sanitation commissioner, would finish in second, civil rights lawyer Maya Wiley would take third, and Yang would place fourth.
The other major candidates on the ballot are City Comptroller Scott Stringer, nonprofit executive Dianne Morales, former Citigroup vice chairman Ray McGuire and Shaun Donovan, secretary of Housing and Urban Development under former President Barack Obama.
The Republican candidates are Fernando Mateo, a businessman and activist, and Curtis Sliwa, a talk show host and founder of the Guardian Angels, a controversial crime prevention group.
When the primary wraps up, the remaining contenders will turn to the general election on Nov. 2.
In terms of fundraising, Yang leads the pack with the most individual contributors, according to a tally of campaign finance data maintained by Politico. McGuire, the favorite candidate of many on Wall Street, has raised the most money.
Over the weekend, in an unusual show of unity against Adams, Yang and Garcia campaigned together to enhance their chances under the ranked-choice system. Adams accused the duo of teaming up to block a Black candidate. The Yang campaign later called Adams's racism charge "wacky."
The Democratic race has largely focused on the candidates' competing plans for the New York economy as well as what they would do to stem rising gun violence and other crimes. Polls have shown that, with the exception of Covid-19, crime is at the top of voters' list of concerns, followed by affordable housing and racial injustice.
The most recent data from the New York Police Department, for the month of May, showed a year-over-year increase in robberies of 46.7%, felony assault of 20.5% and shooting incidents of 73%. The murder rate during the same period was flat.
During the final debate between the candidates on Wednesday, moderate candidate Adams clashed with the progressive, Wiley, over the former's proposal to bring back the controversial stop-and-frisk policing tactic.
Wiley said stop and frisk was racist, unconstitutional and ineffective. Adams has conceded that the practice was overused in the past but has said that it can be effective if done properly.
At another point in Wednesday's debate, Yang challenged Adams over his record on policing. Responding to a question about how he would handle crime in the city, Yang said he had received the endorsement of the Captains Endowment Association, a union Adams once belonged to.
"The people you should ask about this are Eric's former colleagues in the police captains' union, people who worked with him for years, people who know him best," Yang said. "They just endorsed me to be the next mayor of New York City. They think I'm a better choice than Eric to keep us and our families safe."
The candidates have sparred over whether cutting funding for the police was a good idea. Some progressives across the country, including influential Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., pushed for eliminating police funding last year after video of the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis spread widely.
Morales, Wiley, Stringer and Donovan support cuts to the NYPD budget, while Adams, Garcia and Yang do not, according to the local news outlet Gothamist. McGuire said Wednesday that he thought defunding the police was the worst idea put forward by any of his rivals.
The discussion over defunding the police prompted one of the most fiery exchanges of Wednesday's debate. McGuire, who is Black, said that "Black and Brown" communities did not support defunding the police.
In response, Morales, who is Afro-Latina, said, "How dare you assume to speak for black and brown communities as a monolith."
"You know what, I just did," McGuire responded.
The candidates have also staked out divergent positions on bringing the city out of the malaise created by Covid and the measures that were put in place to halt its spread. Among the buzziest proposals are the various ways the candidates have proposed to provide direct relief to New Yorkers.
Yang, who campaigned for the Democratic nomination for president on the strength of his proposal for a universal basic income of $1,000 per month for every American, introduced a somewhat similar plan for New York. Yang has proposed about $2,000 per year for about 500,000 low-income city residents.
Adams and others in the race have attacked Yang for being sparse on details, particularly with regard to how he'd finance his plan. Adams has suggested his own $1 billion plan to provide up to $4,000 per year to low-income residents in the form of a tax credit.
Another big economic proposal comes from Wiley, whose platform calls for a "Works Progress Administration-style infrastructure, stimulus, and jobs program" that would include a $10 billion capital spending program.
To date, de Blasio has not issued an endorsement in the race to become his successor. However, The New York Times has reported that the mayor is believed to favor Adams. The newspaper's own endorsement went to Garcia, whom the editorial board called "most qualified."
Some personal scandals have also shaken the race.
In April, Gothamist reported that a former intern for Stringer, Jean Kim, alleged that Stringer repeatedly sexually assaulted her two decades ago. Stringer denied the allegations, and reporting by the investigative news outlet The Intercept has raised doubts about the accuracy of Kim's claims, but the accusation nonetheless proved damaging to Stringer's campaign. In June a second woman accused Stringer of sexual harassment and unwanted advances. Stringer said he had no memory of the alleged conduct.
Adams, for his part, has faced scrutiny over whether he lives in New York City at all. While Adams says he lives in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn, he also owns a co-op in Fort Lee, New Jersey, with his partner. Earlier this month, Politico published an investigation raising questions about where Adams lives, and noting that he has been spending nights on the campaign trail in a government building in Brooklyn.
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