Bill de Blasio saw his name in the news often during his last year as New York City mayor, and generally not for the reasons he might want – but what damage will that do him? By the city’s term limits law, de Blasio is done, at least for the next few years. The king is dead; long live the king – but who shall serve as de Blasio’s successor?
There are 13 Democrats and two Republicans who battle for the lead during their respective party primaries Tuesday, June 22. The winner of each will move on to face six other candidates from various other parties. Like any royal drama, as the king reaches the end of his reign, there is no shortage of those who hope to take his place. But who actually stands a chance come general election time Nov. 2? Are all but the primary-winning Democrat just pretenders to the throne?
Meet the Contestants
Sitting out the primary game altogether, these are the significant candidates outside the major parties:
- William Pepitone, Conservative Party
- Quanda Francis, Empowerment Party
- Raja Flores, Humanity United Party
- Stacey Prussman, Libertarian Party
- Catherine Rojas, Party for Socialism and Liberation
- Deborah Axt, Working Families Party
Facing off in the Republican primary are Curtis Sliwa and Fernando Mateo – but few seem to consider them contenders. Gotham Gazette interviewed the candidates and published its report on April 12, introducing the Republicans as having a history of misogynistic and racist commentary (Sliwa) and leading scandal-ridden businesses (Mateo).
Of the 13 Democrats, the primary will cull all but one. Here are the six most likely to take the top spot:
- Eric Adams
- Kathryn Garcia
- Raymond McGuire
- Scott Stringer
- Maya Wiley
- Andrew Yang
Ranking the Choices
According to recent polling, voters rank Scott Stringer, New York City comptroller, and former Wall Street executive Raymond McGuire last. It’s unlikely either has much of a shot of winning – but voter surveys have been wrong before.
Remember Andrew Yang, the businessman who wanted to be president and tried to turn his campaign into a lottery? He now sits at fourth place in the polls. For a while, he was the frontrunner in the mayoral race. However, that all changed thanks to his promise to push the mentally ill homeless off the streets and the general outrage that suggestion caused. Given a chance to walk it back, he doubled down instead. “Yes, mentally ill people have rights,” Yang said at one point. “But you know who else has rights? We do. The people and families of the city. We have the right to walk the street and not fear for our safety because a mentally ill person is going to lash out at us.”
In what was apparently an attempt to team up and share voters, Yang attended an event with former New York City Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia – number three in the rankings at the moment.
This will be the first mayoral primary election in the city decided by ranked-choice vote and immediate runoff. Here’s how it works: New Yorkers will have the chance to list up to five candidates – though that’s limited by party, meaning only the Democrats really get those choices. If no single candidate receives 50% or more of the “#1” votes, the elimination rounds begin. Each round, votes are tallied, and whoever appears least in the top spot is eliminated. All the ballots for the loser are reassigned to the voters’ number two picks. Rinse and repeat until one candidate appears as the first choice in at least 50% of the ballots, and you have your primary winner.
Yang’s strategy is simple: He told all of his voters to choose Garcia as their number two pick. With Garcia getting second place amongst any Yang voters who comply, she’s less likely to get eliminated during the runoffs. The idea, of course, is that she reciprocate and give Yang the boost of her voters as well.
So far, she has not.
When asked by a voter on Twitter why she attended the event with Yang, Garcia replied, “I wanted his number twos.” She also made it clear she did not endorse the hopeful. So much for that socialist utopia in which everyone does their part and greed ceases to exist.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and civil rights attorney Maya Wiley are frontrunner and runner-up, respectively, in current polling, but the chaos of ranked-choice voting makes it difficult to predict who will actually come out ahead when the ballots are counted. Adams initially criticized Yang’s plan to appear in public with Garcia as voter suppression, calling this a white woman and an Asian man conspiring to keep a “person of color” from winning. He had to walk that back a bit, however, after he was asked if his own comment could be considered racist, given the anti-Asian hate currently trending in America. Despite his rewording, Adams stood by his criticism of Yang and Garcia on Juneteenth to keep a black or Latino person from becoming mayor.
An Entertaining Distraction?
Difficult though it is to predict who will emerge victorious on the other side of New York City’s first ranked-choice vote, it does seem it will most likely be Adams, Wiley, Garcia, or Yang. From there, only the Nov. 2 general election stands in the way – or does it? Does any Republican stand a chance in one of the bluest cities in the nation? Will the people who sent Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) to the House of Representatives choose a Republican or minor third-party candidate over any Democrat? The June 22 primaries may well be the real contest – the event to watch – and the general election merely an entertaining distraction.
Read more from James Fite.