Andrew Yang’s Celebrity Will Dwindle at the Polls, Rival Maya Wiley Says
(Bloomberg) -- New York City mayoral hopeful Maya Wiley says she’s breaking away from a crowded pack of Democratic candidates and chipping away at Andrew Yang’s lead.
Wiley, a civil rights lawyer and former counsel to Mayor Bill de Blasio, ranked third in a Wednesday poll conducted by Core Decision Analytics for Fontas Advisors, a New York-based lobbying group.
With just 6% of support in that survey, though, she is significantly behind former presidential contender Yang, who registered at 16%, and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, with 10%.
It’s still early: The Democratic primaries aren’t until June 22.
“I’m moving up and I’ve been moving up steadily since October,” she said during a one-hour interview on Friday with Bloomberg News editors and reporters.“It’s a wide open race.”
Wiley, who would be the city’s first female mayor and second Black mayor if elected, acknowledged that Yang’s name recognition still topped the charts. But she said that wouldn’t necessarily translate into votes.
“My daughter had a Howard Dean Beanie Baby and that didn’t help him,” she said in reference to the former presidential candidate’s failed run. “T-shirts don’t win elections.”
Yang spokesman Eric Soufer said his campaign has raised more money, in total, from New York City donors than any other candidate and that “we’re just getting started.”
He said Yang’s campaign “qualified for matching funds faster than anyone else, including those candidates who’ve had trouble getting matching funds or climbing out of single digits in the polls, despite campaigning for twice as long.”
Wiley said she is a proponent of raising taxes on the wealthy but that city government needed to partner with business leaders and show them how that money would be spent. She said she plans to prioritize schools, including closing learning gaps among kids who fell behind during the pandemic, and addressing homelessness.
“It’s part of what’s producing confidence in the city coming back, and part of what I hear people say is, we saw the budget go up for homelessness and yet the problem just grew,” she said.
Wiley said the focus shouldn’t just be on trying to get people to move back to New York, but attracting new people to the city.
“The fall in rents is one of the reasons people relocated to the city, so affordability is also a growth strategy,” Wiley said.
Wiley said her name recognition has increased while holding back on spending on television commercials, which rivals Ray McGuire, a former Citigroup banker, and Shaun Donovan, former city housing commissioner, are ramping up.
Wiley has picked up big labor endorsements, including from Local 1199 of the Service Employees International Union, the influential health care union whose support for de Blasio helped him win his 2013 mayoral election.
She said she’s also getting an influx of donations from backers who would have sent the money to McGuire.
“What wealthier donors were starting see is some of the folks that they thought were inevitable candidates, were not,” she said. “Folks assumed Ray McGuire was going to really bust out in this race and he did not.”
Wiley raised enough money by March 15 to reach an important threshold to qualify for the city’s public campaign finance program, which matches small-dollar contributions from residents after candidates exceed $250,000 in donations from at least 1,000 contributors. She got an additional $1.9 million in public money.
She said she raised money from 10,000 donors, the most after Yang; and got 63% of her donations from city residents, while Yang only got half.
“If we had not made the public match that would have been devastating,” she said, calling her campaign’s inability to qualify for public funds in January a filing discrepancy.
To explain why rival McGuire wasn’t performing as well as she said supporters expected, Wiley referenced Shirley Chisholm, the first Black woman elected to Congress: “People have to feel you, if they don’t feel you they won’t vote for you,” she said. “I like Ray but Ray is not someone who is felt. He can tell his personal story, but he can’t get people to feel his personal story.”
McGuire spokeswoman Lupe Todd-Medina said Wiley “sounds like she is trying to convince herself of something and maybe she is, since here in reality Ray’s getting an outstanding reaction to his fresh approaches to solving New York’s problems.”
Civil Rights Record
Born in Syracuse and raised in Washington D.C., Wiley has said she followed her late father, civil rights leader George Wiley, to protests against racial injustice.
Wiley was tapped as legal counsel to de Blasio in 2014, and appointed his director of women- and minority-owned business enterprises.
She resigned as counsel to the mayor in 2016, at a time when the administration faced state and federal investigations into whether mayoral decisions had been influenced by political donations. She said she realized she could “do more outside than in” and then “voted with my feet.”
She joined the faculty at The New School, a university in Manhattan, and became a legal analyst on MSNBC. She continued working for the city as de Blasio’s appointed head of the Civilian Complaint Review Board, which provides oversight of the police department.
If elected mayor, Wiley said she will reduce the number of NYPD officers and strip more than $300 million from the police budget and use it for a program that would give a $5,000 annual stipend to 100,000 domestic caregivers.
She said she wanted to restructure and “right-size” the police department. ”I would take out the functions that do not require a badge and a gun,” Wiley said. “We have more police officers than we need.”
©2021 Bloomberg L.P.