NYC Mayoral Rivals Team Up, Aiming to Weaken Race’s Front-Runner

In a move to shake up the race to become New York City’s next mayor, former Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia and celebrity entrepreneur Andrew Yang campaigned together Saturday in each other’s political strongholds.

The team-up aims to take advantage of the dynamics of the city’s new election system -- which allows voters to rank their choices -- at the expense of the front-runner, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.

NYC Mayoral Rivals Team Up, Aiming to Weaken Race’s Front-Runner

The two gathered first to meet voters and then joined for a get-out-the-vote rally on the busy commercial streets of Flushing, Queens, home to the city’s greatest concentration of Chinese immigrants. Yang, the upstate New York-born son of Taiwanese immigrants, is popular there. Later, Garcia and Yang held a news conference in Manhattan’s Stuyvesant Town, a middle-class enclave of rent-stabilized housing, where polls show Garcia running strongly.

The arrangement creates a novel partnership and strategic test of the first New York City mayoral election to feature ranked-choice voting. The new system, which has confused many voters, permits people to select as many as five candidates in order of preference rather than just one.

One-Way Endorsement

Yang was much more effusive in his praise of Garcia than she was of Yang. While he repeatedly urged his supporters to include Garcia’s name on their ballots, she demurred against making a similar endorsement of Yang.

“Anyone who’s supporting me as their first choice, please have Kathryn Garcia on your ballot,” Yang said during the Saturday afternoon news conference. “She’s a tremendous public servant, she’s a good person, she will do everything she can to help us and our families.”

When it was Garcia’s turn to speak, she explicitly refused to recommend Yang. “I’m not co-endorsing,” Garcia said. “We’re campaigning together. We’re encouraging ranked-choice voting. We’re making sure people get out to vote.” The highest praise she could muster for Yang during the news conference was to tell reporters: “I do believe both of us are coming at this from a place of giving back to the city we love.”

Saturday’s meet-up, days before the June 22 Democratic primary, holds the promise of bolstering Garcia more than Yang, said Albany-based political consultant Bruce Gyory. “Garcia wants to crack into Yang’s support by gaining his backers’ second choices under ranked-choice voting,” Gyory said. “Yang probably has more clout in sending a signal to Asian voters and non-ideological hipsters.”

Gathering those Asian and youthful voters provides Garcia with a late-campaign pathway to overcome a lead polls now say is held by Adams, a former New York City police captain who has made crime his focus after a year-long spike in shootings and homicides, said political consultant George Fontas, who’s commissioned a series of polls during the campaign.

Yang, while still intending to win, hopes at a minimum to put him and Garcia at the top of voters’ rankings, knocking out Adams.

The strategy may also weaken the candidacy of civil rights advocate and MSNBC television commentator Maya Wiley, who has gained momentum with endorsements from nationally known progressives including U.S. Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Fontas said.

“It’s a natural alliance in the face of a potential defeat for both candidates to the current front-runner, who is Adams,” Fontas said.

In a survey conducted in May, Fontas found that Adams had built such a broad multi-ethnic coalition that Garcia would need to expand her base beyond White residents of Manhattan to have a realistic chance to win. Yang’s loyal following among Asian voters represents that opportunity, Fontas said in an interview.

Polls show Garcia leading Yang. Under ranked-choice voting, if Yang trails Garcia, and his voters have chosen her second, that support would go to her as if they had been first place votes.

NYC Mayoral Rivals Team Up, Aiming to Weaken Race’s Front-Runner

Campaigning with Yang may motivate the 2020 Democratic presidential contender’s most fervent voters to include Garcia on their ballots, too, instead of just voting only for him.

Yang has been supportive of Garcia, who served as Mayor Bill de Blasio’s crisis manager, running the city’s massive public housing authority and managing a pandemic food relief program, all the while running the city’s massive Sanitation Department.

“Anyone who’s been paying attention to this race knows I’m a huge Kathryn Garcia admirer and fan,” Yang said at the Stuyvesant Town event.

Yang often described Garcia as his second choice, to which Garcia responded with a now-famous retort: “I’m not running for number two.”

Yang v. Adams

At the same time, Yang has shown animosity toward Adams, who’s ascended in the polls while Yang’s early lead has evaporated. Adams has ridiculed Yang’s Universal Basic Income, or UBI, plan, calling it “U-B-Lie,” and belittled Yang’s knowledge of the city.

The two have competed for support in Brooklyn’s Orthodox Jewish communities, which usually vote as blocs. During last week’s candidate’s debate, Yang taunted Adams for failing to win the endorsement of the Captains Endowment Association. The union representing past and current NYPD commanders backed Yang over one of its own. When Adams said he didn’t seek or want any police union support, Yang said Adams wasn’t being truthful.

“Yang and Adams have been in pitched warfare for weeks,” said Fontas, who’s not working for or backing any candidate. “Garcia is seizing the animus between her two rivals to pick up more number two votes and potentially defeat Adams with Yang’s imprimatur.”

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