Battered by the coronavirus pandemic and dealing with a surge in crime and gun violence, voters in the nation’s most populous city head to the polls Tuesday to choose a new mayor for the first time in eight years.
And making the Democratic mayoral primary in New York City even more combustible are last-minute racial allegations involving a couple of the top contenders, uncertainty over the first-time use of ranked-choice voting, and the likelihood that a winner won’t be declared for a couple of weeks.
The front-runner in the race, according to an average of the latest polls, Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams, was accompanied by his by his son as he voted early Tuesday morning. Adams broke down in tears as he discussed the passing of his late mother with reporters.
Adams, a former New York Police Department captain, called the primary a “historical” election.
But Adams and some of his allies have been taking aim in recent days at two of his top rivals for the Democratic mayoral nomination, tech entrepreneur and former presidential candidate Andrew Yang and former New York City sanitation commissioner Kathryn Garcia, who have been campaigning together for the past several days.
Yang, the one-time front-runner who slipped in the polls the past two months, has encouraged his supporters to list Garcia as their second choice on their ballots.
Supporters of Adams – who is Black – have claimed without providing proof that the alliance between Yang and Garcia was an effort to suppress the city’s sizable Black vote.
The contest is the first mayoral primary in New York City to use ranked-choice voting, which allows those casting ballots to rank as many as five candidates in order of preference. If no candidate tops 50% – which is an extremely likely scenario considering the crowded field of 13 candidates – the ranked-choice voting kicks in, with ensuing rounds eliminating those with the least amount of votes.
While preliminary results are expected from the first ballot after the polls close Tuesday night, the final outcome of the ranked choices, and thus the winner of the contest, may not be known for a couple of weeks.
Adams apparently isn’t making any promises that he’ll accept the election results.
Referring to former President Trump’s unfound claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, Adams was asked by a reporter Monday if he could assure voters he wouldn’t be making similar claims when the final ranked choice results are released.
“Yes,” Adams answered. “I assure voters that no one is gonna steal the election from me.”
Adams’ surge in support came as a recent poll suggested that nearly half of New York City voters said crime and public safety should be the top priority for whomever succeeds two-term Mayor Bill de Blasio in City Hall.
Adams has repeatedly emphasized that curbing the increase in shootings would be his top priority if elected and pledged in a radio interview last week “to zero in on gangs and guns.”
Yang has pledged that he’ll be “the mayor who’s going to deliver real public safety for us and our families” and recently touted that he “was endorsed by the police captains just yesterday, Eric Adams’ old union, I might add. The officers who know Eric best have decided I’m the best choice to help make New Yorkers safe.”
Adams – who on Monday won the endorsement of the New York Post – Yang and Garcia all oppose cuts to the NYPD. The Post is owned by News Corp, a sister company of Fox News owner Fox Corporation.
Garcia, who recently landed the endorsements of two of the city’s other major newspapers – The Daily News and the New York Times – has also enjoyed a bump in the polls in recent weeks, likely thanks in part to her message of being a nonideological problem-solver who would deliver steady city management.
The most progressive candidate among the top contenders, Maya Wiley, has also risen in the polls. The civil rights attorney who previously served in the de Blasio administration is calling for moving $1 billion from the NYPD’s roughly $6 billion budget and reinvesting it in the city neighborhoods hardest hit by gun violence.
She’s landed the endorsements of some major figures on the left, including the backing two weeks ago of progressive star Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose congressional district includes parts of the city boroughs of the Bronx and Queens.
“At the end of the day we’re going to have to pull up that ballot and fill it out and I’m going to put Maya as number 1,” Ocasio-Cortez said.
Wiley’s rise in the polls comes amid a drop in support for city comptroller and former Manhattan borough president Scott Stringer, another progressive leader in the field of more than a dozen Democratic candidates, who’s been politically wounded following sexual harassment allegations that he’s denied.
Wiley or Garcia, if elected, would make history as New York City’s first female mayor.
The New York City Board of Elections says after polls close at 9 p.m. ET, it will release a preliminary tally of votes cast on primary day and the early voting period, which began June 12 and ended Sunday. But its tally won’t include absentee ballots and will only show voters’ first-choice pick.
The Board of Elections said it will start tabulating the ranked-choice voting system on June 29, a week after primary day, and says it will provide unofficial results as the process continues. But absentee and affidavit votes won’t be added to the tally until next month. New York State law mandates that they be verified and counted, and with a surge in absentee balloting, that takes time.
Add it all together and it could be a couple of weeks until the winner is known.
While the Democratic primary is getting all of the attention, there is a GOP mayoral contest – with two candidates vying for the Republican nomination.
But the winner of the Democratic primary will be considered the front-runner in November’s election, as the city is a Democratic stronghold.