Brooklyn Borough President and former New York police captain Eric Adams was leading in the first round of counting in the city’s Democratic mayoral primary after a campaign focused on law enforcement. The campaign’s early front-runner Andrew Yang conceded defeat.
With almost three-fourths of the precincts reporting Tuesday, Adams had about 31% of the vote, followed by former Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia and civil rights lawyer Maya Wiley with about 21% each. Yang, who unsuccessfully sought the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020, trailed with about 12%.
“I’m conceding this race,” Yang, the tech entrepreneur, told supporters. “I’m a numbers guy, I’m someone who traffics in what happens in the numbers, and I am not going to be New York City mayor.”
Tuesday’s results reflect only the initial round of voting in New York City’s ranked-choice voting system. Voters chose their top five candidates in order of preference. Because of an influx of absentee ballots and a complex counting system, the final winner may not be known until mid-July.
Voters’ second-choice picks could be key to the final results. That’s because candidates who come in last are eliminated, and their voters’ second choices get distributed as if they were top picks to other candidates.
Come-from-behind winners have happened just 15 times over 375 ranked-choice elections in the U.S. since 2004, according to data compiled by advocacy group Fair Vote. Of those, the second-place candidate won 13 times and the third-place candidate twice.
That was the strategy behind Garcia’s decision to campaign with Yang in the final days of the campaign, forming a pact that could reap votes for her in Asian-American communities and among ardent supporters of Yang.
In the Republican primary, Curtis Sliwa, founder of the red beret-wearing Guardian Angels, defeated restaurateur Fernando Mateo to become the GOP nominee. He faces extremely long odds in the overwhelmingly Democratic city.
That means that whomever Democratic voters choose as their nominee will likely go on to be the first woman or the second Black man to hold the office shared by 109 predecessors.
Crime and inequality were the main issues in the last few weeks of campaigning. Voters said while standing in line on a stormy day that street and subway crime made them feel like they were in a 1980s rerun. Yet many also expressed hope that the resident of Gracie Mansion would better reflect the ethnic melting pot of the U.S.’s most populous city.
In the final months of the race, crime and policing became the top issue. The debate around policing shifted dramatically as the city moved away from a summer of pandemic and protests. Conversations about police reform in New York City and calls to defund the police -- which arose in the wake of George Floyd’s murder -- gave way to concerns about shootings and violent crime as the city reopened.
“It’s like the ‘80s again now, it’s not even safe,” said Willie Carlos Jr., a voter in West Harlem, referring to gun violence and graffiti. “I go to work at 1 a.m, 2 a.m. in the morning, even a guy my size, you have to be careful.”
Crime on the whole is down historically, but shooting incidents are up 64% in 2021 over the same period last year and hate crimes have more than doubled, according to NYPD statistics.
Adams, who has been leading recent opinion polls, has made crime central to his campaign, helping to keep it at the forefront of the race. Adams, who was an NYPD captain before he entered politics, has called for the revival of a plainclothes task force that was disbanded last year amid complaints of excessive force. He suggested that the city could return to some form of stop-and-frisk, a policy the city abandoned after it was found to disproportionately target people of color.
Yang at first supported cutting the police budget but later embraced a push for more police to combat gun violence and anti-Asian hate crimes. A union representing NYPD captains has backed his campaign for mayor. Garcia has consistently expressed a desire to keep the NYPD budget intact, while demanding reforms and better discipline for cops.
At the same time Wiley, former counsel to Mayor Bill de Blasio and the highest-polling progressive candidate, has suggested a cut of at least $1 billion from the police budget. She proposes reinvesting the money in communities and social services that she says will address the root causes of crime. That call echoes an unkept promise from term-limited de Blasio.
Many voters don’t want to see deep cuts to the police force, even if they support better discipline and more accountability for the NYPD. They fear crime won’t ebb if there are fewer officers on the streets and in transit stations.
“I don’t take the subways now because of all the incidents happening,” said retired educator Charles Kobrin, 74. “And I’d like to see more police officers on the subway and on the street.” His wife, Helaine, 70, added, “It’s costing me a lot of money in Ubers,” she said.
Voters said they were also pleased to help pick what will likely be the second New York mayor in its history who isn’t a White man. David Dinkins was the only non-White mayor.
The four candidates leading in opinion polls were Black, Asian, female, or both.
“I think it’s as simple as that we’re ready for a woman to show leadership in the city,” said Brooklyn architect Andrea Knox. “And I think they’re all three really great, highly qualified candidates.” Knox ranked Garcia, Wiley and progressive Dianne Morales on her ballot.
The city is also experimenting with ranked choice balloting for the mayor’s race, as well as elections for city council members, borough presidents and city comptroller. Voters will select just one candidate for Manhattan district attorney, a state election.
On Tuesday, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who earlier endorsed Wiley, announced that city Comptroller Scott Stringer, whose campaign was damaged by sexual harassment allegations, was her No. 2 choice.
The results of the mayor’s race may take weeks to tabulate, testing the city’s patience.
On Tuesday, the Board of Elections will announce the unofficial results of the first round of counting. A week later, the board will announce the subsequent rounds of voting, including early voting and Election Day data, but those will also be unofficial. Further rounds will be conducted once a week until all absentee ballots are counted, with the final outcome announced as late as July 12.
Early voting ended Sunday, with 191,197 New Yorkers completing ballots over nine days, including 65,516 in Brooklyn and 60,649 in Manhattan, according to the city Board of Elections. That pales in comparison to the 1.1 million New Yorkers who voted early in the 2020 presidential election, but represents 28% of the roughly 700,000 New Yorkers who voted in the 2013 primaries, before early voting was an option.
And in a nod to the possibility of a female mayor, 58.4% were cast by women, the board said.
Adding to the unpredictability is an exceptionally large field of candidates fueled by an expanded public campaign financing system that has helped keep lower-ranked candidates afloat. Aside from the four leading candidates, those financed by well over $1 million in public and private campaign donations include Donovan and Stringer. McGuire didn’t accept public funds.
© Copyright 2021 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.