The result of the New York City mayoral primary will not be known for another week or two, but as expected, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams is currently in the lead.
Adams, a former NYPD captain, emerged in April as the frontrunner in public polling by emphasizing his crime-fighting credentials. His rise coincided with survey results showing that violent crime was the top concern of voters in the nation’s largest city, replacing the COVID-19 pandemic.
Given the city’s strong Democratic tilt, Adams will be the overwhelming favorite to win the general election later this year, should he emerge victorious from the primary. Republicans on Tuesday nominated talk show host Curtis Sliwa — a longtime city fixture known for his trademark red beret and his leadership of the volunteer anti-crime group the Guardian Angels — as their candidate for the November election.
For Tuesday’s primaries, the city adopted ranked-choice voting for the first time in its history, a reform that is gaining support around the country among those who want to encourage moderation and bipartisanship in politics. Under this system, voters were able to rank their top five choices for mayor — and as candidates who receive the least votes are eliminated, their supporters are reallocated based on their second, third, fourth and fifth choices.
The New York City Board of Elections, however, won’t announce the results of the reallocation until next week, and even then won’t announce the results of absentee ballots. That means it could be two weeks until the winner is declared.
Adams led the first round of voting with 31.7 percent support, followed by the civil rights lawyer Maya Wiley, with 22.3 percent. The city’s former sanitation commissioner, Kathryn Garcia, was a close third, with 19.5 percent. The entrepreneur Andrew Yang — who conceded the race Tuesday night — came in at a more distant fourth, with 11.7 percent.
In the past, the race would have gone to a runoff between Adams and Wiley because no candidate won more than 40 percent, the city’s threshold for winning outright. The last New York City runoff for mayor was held in the 2001 Democratic primary.
“We’re in a holding pattern … while the votes are counted and while we wait to see how the ranked-choice tabulations work out,” said City Councilman Brad Lander, who is leading the race for city comptroller, in a TV interview.
Of course, if there were to have been a runoff, as there would have been in the past, it would have taken even longer to determine a winner.
The consensus among observers is that it will be hard for Wiley or Garcia to catch Adams, who dominated working-class neighborhoods in Queens, the Bronx and Staten Island. Wiley performed best in upscale portions of Brooklyn, while Garcia was most popular in Manhattan and parts of Staten Island.
Adams, Garcia and Yang were all seen as the more moderate candidates in the crowded Democratic field, with progressives rallying in recent weeks behind Wiley.
“Based on his considerable lead over the next two candidates, it would seem very unlikely he loses,” an adviser to one of the eliminated candidates told Yahoo News. “If it was 30 to 27, [it] would be very different and, yes, more fluid, but 10 points is a lot, especially when you consider how many Yang voters likely ranked Adams as a two.”
One recent poll, the Marist survey, backs that up, showing that the most common second choice of Yang voters was Adams. But it also showed that the most common second choice of Wiley voters was Garcia, and the most frequent second choice of Garcia voters was Wiley.
“Are you saying it’s girls against boys?” Garcia joked when asked about that survey result last week. But the serious point is that if enough voters listed Wiley and Garcia as their first and second choices, one of them could approach 50 percent.
“Maya may have a path. It’s just really narrow,” the adviser to a defeated candidate said, adding that if enough voters for other candidates listed Wiley second, “she could make it really tight in the final round.”
Fair Vote, an election reform organization that promotes ranked-choice voting, noted that the vast majority of candidates who have led in the first round of voting in ranked-choice elections over the past 15 years have ultimately won.
The biggest surprise may have been the high turnout. There were 798,000 votes already counted as of Tuesday night, with another 90,000 absentee ballots yet to be counted, and another 130,000 absentee ballots not yet returned. Ballots that were postmarked by June 22 must be received by next Tuesday, the city Board of Elections told Yahoo News.
That means the final turnout for the Democratic primary will be close to 1 million votes, compared with only 691,000 in 2013, the last time there was an open race for mayor.
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