The race for New York City Mayor began amid a pandemic, in a shuttered city rocked by a public health disaster, economic devastation and widespread protests against police brutality.
Now with voters going to the primaries on Tuesday, New York is in a very different place. As the city comes to life again, its residents are immediately encouraged by optimism about the reopening, but also fearful about public safety, affordable housing, jobs – and the character of the largest city in the country.
The primaries mark the end of an extraordinary chapter in New York’s history and the beginning of another, a turning point that will shape the future of the city after the pandemic. Leading mayoral candidates have had vastly different visions of tackling a number of overlapping crises, making this area code, which will almost certainly determine the next mayor, the most significant city election in a generation.
Public polls and interviews with elected officials, voters and party trustees suggest Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, is the front runner on the cusp of Tuesday’s election, fueled by his focus on public safety issues and his ability to keep himself network at work – and middle-class color communities.
Yet even on the last weekend of the race, competition to succeed Mayor Bill de Blasio seems fluid and unpredictable, and credible polls remain sparse.
Two other top candidates, Andrew Yang and Kathryn Garcia, campaigned together in Queens and Manhattan on Saturday, a demonstration of unity that resulted in ugly clashes over the race even in the final hours of the election when Mr Adams accused his rivals of getting together. in the last three days ”and“ in the words: ‘We cannot trust a person of color to be Mayor of New York City.’ ”
Mr. Yang said at a later event that he had been “Asian all my life.” (Mr. Adams later made it clear that he meant that Mr. Yang and Ms. Garcia were trying to prevent a black or Latino candidate from becoming mayor.)
The primaries will ultimately give a clear sense of the democratic stance on the fight against crime, a major national issue that has become the most pressing issue in mayoral elections.
The result will also reveal whether New Yorkers wanted a political outsider like Mr. Yang or a seasoned government veteran like Ms. Garcia who wants to shake up the bureaucracy at City Hall to tackle the jaw-dropping challenges from education to evictions to economic revitalization.
And it will show whether the Democrats are in the mood to “reinvent” a far more just city through transformative progressive politics, as Maya D. Wiley promises, or whether they are more focused on everyday community problems.
In recent polls and short-term fundraising, Ms. Garcia, the city’s former sanitation officer, and Ms. Wiley, a former lawyer for Mr. de Blasio, appear to be gaining traction late on, while Mr. Yang, a former President candidate, remains a serious contender, even if there are signs that its momentum may have stalled.
But other factors can cloud the outcome.
For the first time in New York City, the candidate for mayor is determined by a ranked election that allows New Yorkers to rank up to five candidates in order of preference. Some New Yorkers are undecided about how to evaluate their decisions and whether or not they even rank them.
And since many New Yorkers are used to a primary that usually takes place in September, it’s not at all clear what the makeup of a post-pandemic June electorate will be.
For such a high stakes election, the competition felt both endless and rash at the same time. For months it was a low key affair, marked by dutiful Zoom forums and a distracted city.
But if there has been one constant in the last month it has been the central role of crime and police in the competition.
“Public safety has clearly emerged as an important issue,” said Hakeem Jeffries, New York’s most senior member of the House of Representatives, when asked to identify the key issue of the mayoral election. “How to reconcile this pursuit with fair, respectful policing has been, in my opinion, critically important throughout the bottom line of this campaign.”
Six months ago, few would have predicted that public safety would be the top theme of the race just a year after the Defund the Police movement hit the city. Crime rates are far lower than they were in ancient times, and residents face a long list of challenges once the city is out of the pandemic.
But amid a spike in shootings this spring, harrowing episodes of violence on the subway trains, biased attacks on Asian Americans and Jews – and extensive coverage of crime on local television – virtually every public poll shows that public safety has become the biggest concern among the democratic voters.
Mr. Adams, Ms. Garcia, Mr. Yang and Raymond J. McGuire, a former Citi executive, vigorously oppose the Defund the Police movement. But no one has advocated public safety more than Mr. Adams, a former police captain who made safety a “prerequisite” for prosperity.
Mr Adams, who had a complex career in the police force and fought against police misconduct as the leader of 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, says he was once a victim of police brutality himself and argues that he was is well equipped to cope with both police reforms and spikes in violence.
In recent weeks, however, Mr. Adams has been increasingly related to issues of transparency and ethics Taxes and revelations all around Real estate ownership. This dynamic could cast doubt on his candidacy in recent days as his opponents have sharply questioned his judgment and integrity.
If he wins, it will be in part because of his significant institutional backing, as a seasoned politician with union support and major constituency relationships – but also because his message connects internally in some neighborhoods of the city.
“Mr. Adams! You have my voice!” Blanca Soto, who will turn 60 on Monday, cried out as she walked past an Adams event in Harlem on Thursday.
“I’m defending him because he won’t take anything away from the police,” said Ms. Soto, a health worker who said safety was her top priority. “I want to see more police, especially on the subway. We’ve had her there before. I don’t know what happened, but everything was fine when that happened. “
Mr. Stringer, the city’s auditor; Shaun Donovan, a former federal building minister; Ms. Morales, a former community service executive; and Mrs Wiley have taken a very different view of a number of police matters. They support cuts in police budgets to varying degrees and instead advocate investment in communities. The department’s operating budget is approximately $ 6 billion. Ms. Wiley, Mr. Stringer and Ms. Morales were also skeptical about using more police officers to patrol the subway.
Ms. Wiley argues that the best way to stop violence is often Invest in the social safety net, including among mental health professionals, violence interrupters and in schools.
Ms. Wiley, who was supported by some of the most prominent left-wing leaders in the country, including New York and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, seeks to form a coalition that includes both white progressives and colored voters from across the ideological spectrum.
Rival campaigns have long believed it had the potential to build perhaps the broadest coalition of voters in the race, but polls suggest it hasn’t done so in a meaningful way.
Mr. Jeffries, who supported and worked with Ms. Wiley, said it offers a change from the status quo, “a fresh face” that is both prepared and offers a compelling vision for investing in these communities that are traditionally left behind . “
Mr. Jeffries has said that he ranks Mr. Adams in second place, and that if Mr. Adams won it would be based on the strength of the black and Latino communities “who felt increasingly excluded from New York’s promises as it got more expensive” . . “
A number of campaigns and political strategists see Latino voters as the crucial, current swing voice, and the leading candidates see all opportunities with parts of this diverse electorate, with candidates like Mr. Adams and Ms. Wiley showing new Spanish-language advertisements in the last days – an ad from Adams criticized Ms. Garcia in Spanish – and Mr. Yang, who spent Thursday in the Bronx, home to the city’s largest Latino population.
Mr. Yang, who would be the city’s first Asian-American mayor, is betting that he can reshape the electorate by bringing in more young Asian-American and Latin American voters while presenting himself as a “change” candidate.
Mr. Yang was a front runner in the race for months, backed by strong name identification and fame, as well as a hopeful message about New York’s potential and a vigorous personal campaign plan.
But as New York reopened and crime became a bigger issue in the minds of voters – and as Mr. Yang faced increasing control over outliers and gaps in his communal knowledge – he lost ground.
His tone on the home stretch is a striking departure from the exuberant pitch that defined his early message as he escalates his criticism of Mr. Adams and seeks to take advantage of his public safety issues. Mr. Yang, who has no experience with the city government, has also tried to use this outsider position to bring burning charges against the political class.
Ms. Garcia has moderate instincts – she was one of the few leading mayoral candidates to favor President Biden as her first choice in the presidential primary – but she runs primarily as a pragmatic technocrat steeped in communal knowledge.
She was supported by the editorial offices of the New York Times and the New York Daily News, among others, and has garnered noticeable attention in politically active, highly educated corners of the city, such as the Upper West Side, even as Mr. Stringer and Mr. Donovan also have The government’s cloak of experience fought.
“I don’t think New York is doing as well, as progressive as I am, with a number of progressives who feel we should spend more time on issues like these rather than the actual things that need to be done” said William Pinzler, 74, as he prepared to vote for Ms. Garcia at Lincoln Center. “Kathryn Garcia picked up the trash.”
But Ms. Garcia, who struggled to deliver a standout moment during several televised debates, is still introducing herself in many ways and it is not yet clear if she can win the same kind of support across the city.
When asked what lessons the National Democrats could learn from Tuesday’s competition results, MP Grace Meng, who has endorsed Mr. Yang as her first choice and Ms. Garcia as her second choice and appeared with them on Saturday, pointed out questions towards both personal characteristics and political visions.
“How much do people prioritize a leader with experience or vision to get us out of the pandemic, but also to address issues like public safety and education – I think this will be a kind of filter through which we see the next round of elections . “Nationwide,” she said. “Wherever you may be.”