Eric Adams wins Democratic primary for New York City mayor

By Katie Glueck

Eric L. Adams, who rose from poverty to become an iconoclastic police captain and the borough president of Brooklyn, declared victory in the Democratic nomination for mayor of New York City on Tuesday, putting him on track to become the second Black mayor in the history of the nation’s largest city.

The contest, which was called by The Associated Press on Tuesday night, was seen as one of the city’s most critical in a generation, with the winner expected to help New York set a recovery course from the economic devastation of COVID-19 and long-standing racial and socioeconomic inequalities that the pandemic deepened.

But as the campaign entered its final months, a spike in shootings and homicides drove public safety and crime to the forefront of voters’ minds, and Adams — the only candidate with a law enforcement background — moved urgently to demonstrate authority on the issue.

Adams held an 8,400-vote lead over Kathryn Garcia, a margin of 1 percentage point — small enough that it was not immediately clear whether she or any of Adams’ opponents would contest the result in court. All three leading candidates had filed to maintain the option to challenge the results. If they do not do so, Adams’ victory could be certified as soon as next week.

“While there are still some very small amounts of votes to be counted, the results are clear: An historic, diverse, five-borough coalition led by working-class New Yorkers has led us to victory in the Democratic primary for mayor of New York City,” Adams, 60, said in a statement.

Yet neither Garcia nor Maya Wiley, a former counsel to Mayor Bill de Blasio who finished in third place, was ready to offer a concession on Tuesday, with each offering brief statements that vaguely alluded to their next steps.

The results came after the city’s Board of Elections counted an additional 118,000 absentee ballots, and then deployed a ranked-choice elimination system — the first time New York has used it in a mayoral election.

There are potentially several thousand votes still to be counted, including affidavit votes, and defective absentee ballots that voters can fix within the next week. Although the Board of Elections could not provide a precise number of those votes on Tuesday, the Adams campaign said there were not enough for Garcia to overtake him.

Lindsey Green, a spokeswoman for Garcia, said in a statement that campaign officials were “currently seeking additional clarity on the number of outstanding ballots and are committed to supporting the Democratic nominee.”

Under the ranked-choice voting system, voters could rank up to five candidates on their ballots in preferential order. Because Adams did not receive more than 50% of first-choice votes on the initial tally, the winner was decided by ranked-choice elimination.

In heavily Democratic New York City, Adams will be the overwhelming favorite in the general election against Curtis Sliwa, the Republican nominee and the founder of the Guardian Angels.

“Now we must focus on winning in November so that we can deliver on the promise of this great city for those who are struggling, who are underserved and who are committed to a safe, fair, affordable future for all New Yorkers,” Adams said in his statement.

The results capped a remarkable stretch in the city’s political history: The race began in a pandemic and took several unexpected twists in the final weeks, as one candidate confronted accusations of sexual misconduct dating back decades; another faced a campaign implosion; and Adams, under fire over residency questions, offered reporters a tour of the Brooklyn apartment where he says he lives.

Most recently, it was colored by a vote-tallying debacle at the Board of Elections, leaving simmering concerns among Democrats about whether the eventual outcome would leave voters divided and mistrustful of the city’s electoral process.

In a statement Tuesday night, Wiley thanked her supporters and expressed grave concerns about the Board of Elections.

“We will have more to say about the next steps shortly,” the statement said. “Today we simply must recommit ourselves to a reformed Board of Elections and build new confidence in how we administer voting in New York City. New York City’s voters deserve better, and the BOE must be completely remade following what can only be described as a debacle.”

Garcia came in third place among voters who cast ballots in person on primary day and during the early voting period, trailing both Adams and Wiley. But on the strength of ranked-choice voting, she surged into second place, with significant support from voters who had ranked Wiley and Andrew Yang, a former presidential candidate, as their top choices.

Garcia and Yang spent time during the final days of the race campaigning together and appearing on joint campaign literature, a team-up that plainly benefited Garcia under the ranked-choice process after Yang, who began the race as a front-runner but plummeted to fourth place on primary day, dropped out.

Wiley, a favorite of younger left-wing voters, had sought to build a broad multiracial coalition, and she earned the support of some of New York’s most prominent Democratic members of Congress. By contrast, both Adams and Garcia ran as relative moderates on policy issues including policing, education and their postures toward the business and real estate communities.

The apparent victory of Adams, who embraces a relatively expansive role for law enforcement in promoting public safety, amounts to a rebuke of the left wing of his party that promoted far-reaching efforts to scale back the power of the police. The race was a vital if imperfect test of Democratic attitudes around crime amid a national wave of gun violence in American cities.

Adams pushed for urgent action to combat a rise in gun violence and troubling incidents of subway crimes as well as bias attacks, especially against Asian Americans and Jews. While crime rates are nowhere near those of more violent earlier eras, policing still became the most divisive subject in the mayoral race.

But some older voters had first heard about Adams when he was a younger member of the police force, pushing to rein in police misconduct.

That background helped him emerge as a candidate with perceived credibility on issues of both combating crime and police violence. And some Democrats, aware that national Republicans are eager to caricature their party as insufficiently concerned about crime, have taken note of Adams’ messaging — even if his career and life story are, in practice, difficult for other candidates to automatically replicate.

“What Eric Adams has said quite well is that we need to listen to communities that are concerned about public safety, even as we fight for critical reforms in policing and racial justice more broadly in our society,” said Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, D-N.Y., the chairman of the Democratic House campaign arm, who endorsed Adams the day before the primary.

While Adams was named the winner on Tuesday night, he faces significant challenges in unifying the city around his candidacy. He has faced scrutiny over transparency issues concerning his tax and real estate disclosures, his fundraising practices and even questions of residency, issues that may intensify under the glare of the nominee’s spotlight, and certainly as mayor, should he win as expected in November.

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