NYC Voters Chart Post-Pandemic Course After Fractious Mayor Race

New Yorkers emerging from more than a year of pandemic misery will cast ballots Tuesday for a new mayor who will determine the city’s path to recovery. Voters will choose from a wide-ranging field that includes an ex-cop, a failed presidential candidate, a Wall Street executive and several former city bureaucrats.

The Democratic primary is garnering most of the attention, given that the winner will likely prevail in November against the Republican nominee in the overwhelmingly Democratic city.

The campaign has centered on a clash between the candidates’ two vastly different approaches to a recovery -- those who want to improve the mechanics of government as residents emerge from lockdown and fill streets, office buildings and restaurants, and those who say the city must keep its focus on ending inequality, echoing the theme that got term-limited Mayor Bill de Blasio elected in 2013.

NYC Voters Chart Post-Pandemic Course After Fractious Mayor Race

Recent polls show four leading Democratic candidates: Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, former city Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia, former presidential contender Andrew Yang, and civil rights lawyer Maya Wiley.

A different clash emerged in the campaign’s final days that echoed some of the animosity of the 2020 presidential election aftermath.

Adams several times suggested he may not accept the results of the balloting if he loses after he accused Garcia and Yang of “disenfranchising Black voters” by forming an alliance to campaign together.

But on Tuesday, Adams retreated from that stance and affirmed he would accept the results, win or lose.

“If they win, they win,” he said at a polling place on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. “Whoever is elected, they will have my full support and I hope that they say the same thing when Eric is elected.”

Adams, Garcia and Yang have all promised more police to stem a wave of violent crime as well as cleaner streets, support for arts and culture, and the return of New York as a tourism magnet.

Wiley, who won the backing of nationally known progressives such as Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and New York Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, is resurrecting de Blasio’s vows to fight inequality and over-aggressive policing, in part by cutting the NYPD’s budget.

The slate of candidates is the city’s most diverse and could produce New York’s first female or Asian mayor. The city has had 109 male leaders and only one -- David Dinkins -- was Black.

NYC Voters Chart Post-Pandemic Course After Fractious Mayor Race

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.

The ranked-choice system permits voters to choose their top five preferences in order, instead of just one. If the voter’s first choice fails to win the top position, the second-place vote gets counted. Proponents say the system allows a greater say for voters in the election process, despite the confusion that accompanies rolling out major voting changes in America’s biggest city.

On Tuesday, Ocasio-Cortez announced that city Comptroller Scott Stringer, whose campaign was damaged by sexual harassment allegations, was her No. 2 choice.

NYC Voters Chart Post-Pandemic Course After Fractious Mayor Race

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.

Eva Hsu, who voted in Manhattan on Tuesday, said ranked-choice voting may lead to “a more moderate candidate” winning the Democratic mayoral nomination. “All the extremes could get weeded out,” she said.

Joan Kagan, 31, who works in marketing and voted in Manhattan on Tuesday, said she was stressed out by ranked choice voting because she “didn’t think that there were five worth picking for any of these offices.”

Still, Kagan said she appreciated the diversity of candidates and that she ranked Garcia, former city housing commissioner Shaun Donovan and former Citigroup executive Ray McGuire because they “they are all people who understand how to run a bureaucracy, and at the end of the day our city is a massive bureaucracy.”

McGuire, who has struggled for voter support despite a well-funded campaign, visited polling places on Tuesday with Gwen Carr, whose son Eric Garner, died in a police chokehold in 2014, a death that helped ignite the Black Lives Matter movement.

Carr’s appearance is also a symbolic knock on Wiley, who has been criticized for the five years it took for Daniel Pantaleo, the police officer who choked Garner, to be fired. Wiley was counsel to de Blasio at the time of Garner’s death and was head of the city’s police watchdog, the Civilian Complaint Review Board, from 2016 to 2017.

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.

Republicans are choosing between Curtis Sliwa, founder of the red beret-wearing Guardian Angels, a volunteer crime-prevention group, and restaurateur Fernando Mateo.

The primary elections for mayor are typically held in September, less than two months before the November general election.

“If this were the September primaries as it has always been before, we would be having a different vibe,” said Rob Richie, chief executive of FairVote, a group that advocates for ranked-choice elections. “There would have been more time for engagement and maybe a little more time to define the race.”

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.

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