Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, a former police captain who put public safety at the centre of his campaign for New York City mayor, was leading a field of 13 Democratic candidates in Tuesday’s primary election, though the outcome is unlikely to be known for weeks.
With 90 percent of the in-person votes counted, Adams had been picked as the top choice on 31 percent of ballots. But with at least 87,000 absentee ballots yet to be processed, and a new ranked-choice voting system in place, final results are not expected until mid-July at the earliest.
Speaking to jubilant supporters, Adams acknowledged that he had not won yet and that, under the new system, there were multiple rounds of ballot counting still to go.
“We know that there’s going to be twos and threes and fours,” he said. “But there’s something else we know. We know that New York City said, ‘Our first choice is Eric Adams.’”
To everyone who supported us, volunteered for us, organized for us, and poured their hearts and souls into this race: Thank you, thank you, for being a part of this movement.
We’ve run a campaign that we can all be immensely proud of — now, let's celebrate! pic.twitter.com/iG3ZvE6Nw3
— Eric Adams (@ericadamsfornyc) June 23, 2021
The ranked-choice system, approved for use in New York City primaries and special elections by referendum in 2019, allowed voters to rank up to five candidates on their ballot.
The race appeared to have narrowed to three candidates, all vying for the chance to lead the country’s most populous city in its arduous recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. Maya Wiley, the former MSNBC analyst and civil rights lawyer who emerged as the leading liberal candidate, was in second place with 22 percent. Kathryn Garcia, a former sanitation chief who campaigned as an experienced technocrat, was at 20 percent.
A still hoarse Wiley acknowledged the uncertainty of the race in a speech later. “What we celebrate today is that we have a path,” she said.
Garcia told her supporters, “I know that we’re not going to know a lot more tonight, so I want to thank everyone who is here, and everyone who has been a part of this journey.”
The winner of Tuesday’s Democratic contest to succeed term-limited Mayor Bill de Blasio will be an overwhelming favourite in November’s general election, given the city’s heavily Democratic lean.
In the Republican primary, Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa defeated businessman Fernando Mateo. Ranked-choice voting was not a factor because there were only two candidates in the race.
Tuesday’s Democratic results were enough to force a concession from entrepreneur and former presidential candidate Andrew Yang, who was in a distant fourth place.
Several candidates in the race have the potential to make history if elected. The city could get its first female mayor, or its second Black mayor, depending on who comes out on top.
Voters were also choosing among eight Democratic candidates, including Iranian American Tali Farhadian Weinstein and Palestinian American Tahanie Aboushi, who were seeking to replace retiring Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.
A winner has yet to be called as state prosecutor Alvin Bragg maintains a slight lead over former federal prosecutor Farhadian Weinstein with thousands of votes left to count. Aboushi placed third with 11 percent of the vote.
The nominee, who will be all but guaranteed to win November’s general election, would inherit Vance’s criminal probe into former President Donald Trump’s business empire.
Rising crime a key issue
The next mayor of New York City will confront deep challenges, including wealth inequality, police accountability, a lack of affordable housing and struggling tourism industry.
But concern over a rise in shootings during the pandemic has dominated the mayoral campaign in recent months, even as the candidates have wrestled with demands from the left for more police reform.
As a former officer, but one who spent his career fighting racism within the department, Adams may have benefitted most from the policing debate.
He denounced the “defund the police” slogan and proposed reinstating a disbanded plainclothes unit to focus on getting illegal guns off the streets.
The leading moderate candidates – Adams, Garcia and Yang – all called for increased police resources.
Wiley, by contrast, proposed cutting $1bn from the nearly $6bn New York police budget, redirecting the funding instead to other services, such as mental health counselling.
The election’s outcome could help show where Democratic voters stand on the crime issue ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.
The primary contest is the city’s first mayoral campaign to use ranked-choice voting, in which voters can rank up to five candidates in order of preference.
Besides Adams, Garcia, Wiley and Yang, other contenders in the Democratic contest included City Comptroller Scott Stringer, former US Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Shaun Donovan, former Citigroup executive Ray McGuire and nonprofit executive Dianne Morales.
Tuesday’s results reflected only the top choices for voters who cast ballots in person.
Vote tabulation is then done in computerised rounds, with the person in the last place getting eliminated each round, and ballots cast for that person getting redistributed to the surviving candidates based on voter rankings. That process continues until only two candidates are left. The one with the most votes wins.
It will not be until June 29 that the Board of Elections performs a tally of those votes using the new system. It will not include any absentee ballots in its analysis until July 6, making any count before then potentially unreliable.
Among the votes counted on the election night, Adams trailed Garcia and Wiley when voters listed their second, third and fourth choices in the ranked-choice voting system.