New Yorkers go to the polls on Tuesday to choose the Democratic candidate for the city’s mayoral election, as the race for votes went down to the wire on Monday night.
The winner of the Democratic contest is most likely to succeed Bill de Blasio as mayor when the election takes place in November, given the Democratic-leaning credentials of the US’s most populous city.
But a lack of polling data and the use of a ranked-choice voting system for the first time has made the Democratic primary the most difficult to assess in years. Among the 13 Democrats on the ballot, Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams has been leading in the latest poll, with former presidential candidate Andrew Yang and former New York city sanitation commissioner Kathryn Garcia also performing strongly.
All three are relative moderates politically. On the left, Maya Wiley, who was endorsed by popular New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, is seen as having the best chance of winning the progressive vote given that other left-wing candidates have battled controversies.
Scott Stringer, the city comptroller, faced historical accusations of sexual misconduct during the campaign, while Dianne Morales was hit by a walkout from staff members unhappy at working conditions.
Over the weekend, Mr Adams, who is black, criticised Mr Yang and Ms Garcia of campaigning together, suggesting, without providing evidence, that it amounted to a concerted campaign to prevent a person of colour from being elected.
“For them to come together like they are doing in the last three days, they’re saying we can’t trust a person of colour to be the mayor of the city of New York when this city is overwhelmingly people of colour,” he said on Sunday, before doubling-down on this position in a series of election-eve interviews on Monday. Mr Yang retorted that he himself is Asian.
Mr Yang called on his supporters to rank Ms Garcia second when they vote, though Ms Garcia stopped short of endorsing Mr Yang. Voters can vote for up to five candidates for the Democratic nomination, but political analysts are concerned that many New Yorkers will not vote strategically when they cast their ballot.
Ms Wiley criticised Mr Adams for suggesting that the last-minute alliance between two of his rivals had a racial dimension.
“These accusations are a weaponisation of real fears and concerns about our democracy, and have no place here,” said Ms Wiley, who is also black. “This will be a free and fair election and I urge all New Yorkers to use all five slots on their ballot.”
A final result is not likely for some time and Mr de Blasio, the current mayor, has cautioned against any candidate claiming victory when the first round of voting concludes. “Every vote has to be counted before there is a final result,” he said on Monday.
The winner of the mayoral race will be tasked with revitalising New York at a challenging time. The city was hit badly a year ago when Covid-19 hit the United States. Most of the remaining Covid restrictions were lifted this month and more than 70 per cent of New York state's adults have received at least one dose of a vaccine.
While Broadway will reopen in September, New York faces a challenge in encouraging workers to return to their offices, seen as vital in bringing an economic upturn to Manhattan’s restaurants and other businesses.
New York mayoral election: the top five candidates
The 46-year-old entrepreneur shot to national fame when he mounted an unlikely run for the Democratic nomination for president in 2019. Though he dropped out in early 2020, his pledge to guarantee every American adult $1,000 a month in universal basic income appealed to many independent and younger voters. Though he was the early frontrunner in the mayoral race, he faces questions about his lack of experience in city politics.
The city official who was until recently New York's sanitation commissioner received a huge boost in May when she won the coveted endorsement of the New York Times. Since then her profile has grown, though she failed to land a killer punch in the three televised debates. Her campaign has stressed her experience in city politics at various levels, though her rivals have painted her association with mayor Bill DeBlasio as a negative.
President of Brooklyn borough, the former police officer has run on a law-and-order message as polls show that crime is a key concern for New Yorkers as they emerge from the pandemic. While he has promised to be tough on crime, he also says he was a victim of police brutality. In recent weeks controversy emerged over whether he lives in New York or New Jersey, though he has insisted he spends most nights in Brooklyn. If elected, he would be only the second black mayor in New York's history.
The former civil rights lawyer and counsel for Bill de Blasio has gained in the polls following endorsements by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Elizabeth Warren. At a time when policing is top of the agenda in New York, Wiley has said she would cut the police budget and redirect the money to other resources. She has also pledged to give subsidies to low-income New Yorkers to help pay for rent. However, high-profile figures have questioned her diversity record while in office.
Stringer (61), the city comptroller, has highlighted his years of experience in politics during his campaign. He has also campaigned heavily on education and access to housing. But he has failed to regain his early momentum after he was accused by two women of sexual misconduct. An unpaid worker on a 2001 political campaign accused him of unwanted advances, which he denied. A second woman said he harassed her in 1992, but he says he has no memory of her.