When Tom Glocer went to bed on Tuesday night in the Hamptons, Morgan Stanley’s lead independent director felt a mix of disappointment and contentment.
He was glum that his fellow Wall Street veteran Ray McGuire “did not pull a miracle royal straight flush,” despite the millions of dollars of support from bankers and executives including him. But he was happy to see Eric Adams, another favorite of the finance industry, zooming toward City Hall.
“Wall Street breathes a sigh of relief,” Glocer said. Some of the billionaires who sent enormous checks to a super political action committee backing Adams, he added, did it to keep a more progressive candidate off the ballot.
New York voters decided not to send an investment banker to City Hall -- but Wall Street may have helped pick the next mayor anyway. Adams, the Brooklyn Borough president and a former police captain, holds a comfortable lead after the first round of counting in the city’s mayoral primary, in a race flooded by money from the finance industry.
New York may not name an official winner until mid-July, after multiple rounds of vote counts in a ranked-choice election that could still send former bureaucrats Maya Wiley or Kathryn Garcia to Gracie Mansion. Wall Street won’t get former Citigroup Inc. vice chairman McGuire as mayor, but the man who raised the most money after him seems on his way to victory. And that’s just fine with bankers and real estate executives.
“Maybe they didn’t get their favorite son,” said Ralph Schlosstein, a friend of McGuire’s who’s co-chairman and co-CEO of Evercore Inc. “But they got someone they can work with.”
The new system of ranked-choice voting got the spotlight, but that wasn’t the only thing that made this campaign so distinctive. The race, the first big City Hall primary since Bill De Blasio won in 2013, showed how court rulings in New York and Washington have opened up gushers of cash that now allow just a few political donors to send in sums that were previously unthinkable.
Adams raised the second-most money in the mayoral primary, trailing only McGuire in total funds. McGuire racked in $1.5 million from employees of banks, private equity firms, and hedge funds, the most of any candidate, followed by Andrew Yang.
Mets owner Steve Cohen gave $1.5 million to a super PAC backing Adams, joining a group of his fellow hedge-fund magnates -- Dan Loeb, Ken Griffin, Paul Tudor Jones and Stanley Druckenmiller. Stephanie Coleman, who runs a biodynamic farm and is married to the investor Chase Coleman, gave $500,000 to the group just before election day.
As experienced investors, the financiers hedged their bets. Griffin also gave $750,000 to a super PAC backing Yang, which got about $500,000 each from Loeb and Cohen. Yang dropped out of the race last night. Jones and Druckenmiller both sent cash to McGuire in addition to their support for the Adams PAC.
Adams has taken fire for his relationship with real estate developers, welcoming their cash and calling his opponents “disingenuous” for rejecting it.
Jeff Blau, who runs Hudson Yards developer Related Cos., was feeling upbeat on Wednesday.
“Our focus on voter turnout and bringing more people to the Democratic primary has clearly paid off,” he said. “It’s exciting to see there’s a front-runner for mayor who has put a clear, moderate focus on critical issues.”
Property owners, eager to select a business-friendly leader to steer the recovery from the pandemic, have been pushing for months to get New Yorkers to vote in the Democratic primary. In March, billionaire developer Stephen Ross said he was raising “tens of millions of dollars” to turn out voters.
Ruth Colp-Haber, who runs Wharton Property Advisors Inc., voted for Garcia, Adams and McGuire.
“A lot of real estate heavy hitters have backed Adams,” she said. “New York is a factory town, but we don’t have factories, we have offices. And our offices are at the center of the city’s economy.”
Developers and real estate investors have long fought to lower barriers for development and to ease zoning processes. The Real Estate Board of New York, a property trade association, has called to cap property taxes and reduce taxes on rental buildings. But much of the city’s ability to spend on social services and other programs relies on income from property taxes -- and lower values from this year’s assessment will likely weigh on city revenue.
The Partnership for New York City’s Kathy Wylde, whose nonprofit group represents some of the city’s biggest finance corporations, said her colleagues will be pleased.
“Adams has impressed our membership, we’ve had a couple of sessions with him and people have walked away thinking that he is thoughtful,” said Wylde, who donated to Scott Stringer, Wiley, Garcia, Shaun Donovan and McGuire. “I, of course, would like to see a woman become mayor.”
McGuire was one of Wall Street’s few Black executives until he left for politics last year. Finance industry donors have said they thought he could win if he were the second or third choice of enough voters, thanks to the complexity of the new system of ranked choice. But the money never helped McGuire fly.
Mitchell Moss, a professor of urban policy at New York University, said Wall Street donors tend to be unsentimental. “You can jump from one horse to another, but you can’t do that at Belmont.” The way Moss sees it, it’s hard to swap a Citigroup career for city politics: “We tend to think that success is transferable, but it isn’t. Great athletes don’t make great coaches. And great military heroes don’t make great politicians.”
Wiley -- who follows Adams with 22% of the vote -- had support from a billionaire investor, too. George Soros gave $500,000 each to two political action committees that are both backing her, one affiliated with the Service Employees International Union’s Local 1199 and the other with the Working Families Party.
Wall Street donors didn’t entirely ignore Garcia, who is in third place. More than a dozen employees of the trading powerhouse Jane Street Group LLC gave her a total of $18,500, while seven Goldman Sachs Group Inc. employees gave her about $5,000 in all.
“We’re going to have to give the new mayor the benefit of the doubt. Having said that, you had a lot of billionaire money -- $16, $17, $18 million. That money coming from the labor movement was very eclipsed from money coming from the billionaires,” said Randi Weingarten, president of the American Federation of Teachers, who said she ranked Adams second, after city Comptroller Stringer. “I would hope that as we move forward in this city, whoever is the mayor, that it is the people of the city, not the wealthy of the city, who are the focus.”
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