- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 22, 2021

NEW YORKNew York City mayoral candidate Andrew Yang predicted a “historic victory” Tuesday as he strutted down a Manhattan street in a bid to catch front-runner Eric Adams and lift the Big Apple out of its pandemic doldrums.

Though only a primary, the winning Democrat from an eight-person field is all but assured to succeed term-limited Mayor Bill de Blasio in the liberal city.

“I feel great. People heading out to vote today is going to lead to a historic victory for us,” Mr. Yang, who briefly sought the Democratic presidential nomination last year, told The Washington Times as he waved to onlookers in the Upper West Side before whisking to another polling place in a black SUV.

An hour later, former Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia said the math is on her side as she greeted voters outside the same voting site, Frank McCourt High School.

“We know that we’re winning a tremendous amount of No. 1 votes and we know that we’re winning a tremendous amount of No. 2s,” she said in a brief interview.

Ms. Garcia was referring to a brand-new electoral system that allows city voters to rank their top five choices on their ballots.

Mr. de Blasio used pizza toppings to try to explain the byzantine system that is adding intrigue to the race and will drag out the vote-counting for weeks if no Democrat secures a majority of top-choice votes late Tuesday night.

Some voters exiting the high school on 85th Street needed a minute to remember how they ranked their top choices under the new-fangled system.

“It was ridiculous,” said Mary Libassi, a retired lawyer who lives on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.

She ended up bridging wings of the Democratic Party with her top picks, selecting Ms. Garcia at No. 1 and giving her second pick to Maya Wiley, who consolidated the left wing with endorsements from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren but could still fall short of the coalition needed to win.

Ms. Garcia “has run a big organization,” Ms.Libassi said. “Wiley was kind of like, ‘Go with someone who’s got some real ideas.’”

The most populous city in the country a is trying to regain its mojo after a pandemic that killed over 30,000 city residents, shuttered museums and performing spaces and reshuffled office work in a city known for its bridge-and-tunnel commuters.

Broadway is staging a fall comeback, while the new Moynihan Train Hall near Pennsylvania Station provides a showpiece of what’s possible with some investment in city renewal. But the city faces a long recovery and public safety concerns have surged as a campaign issue, with overall crime rising 22% in May compared to the same time last year due to a spike in robberies.

An Ipsos poll released Monday showed Mr. Adams, a retired police captain and Brooklyn borough president, leading as the first choice of 28%, followed by Mr. Yang at 20%, Ms. Garcia with 15% and Ms. Wiley at 13%.

Obama administration housing secretary Shaun Donovan, city Comptroller Scott M. Stringer, former Wall Street executive Raymond J. McGuire and former nonprofit executive Dianne Morales round out the Democratic field.

Fernando Mateo, a restaurateur, and Curtis Sliwa, the founder of the Guardian Angels street-patrol organization, are duking it out on the GOP side but not considered strong contenders in the general election.

Mr. Adams broke down in tears Tuesday as he voted in Brooklyn and vowed to “stop the betrayals” that afflicted his mother, who died at the height of the campaign.

“I never had the time to mourn,” Mr. Adams said, wiping his face in Brooklyn after casting his ballot with his son, Jordan.

He said his mother had suffered from poor health care while working multiple jobs to support her six children.

“Now, all these years later, her son walked into a polling place and he placed her grandson’s hand on his name to run to be the mayor of the city of New York and finally stop the betrayals,” Mr. Adams said. “That’s what this is about.”

Crime concerns

Many voters cite crime as the city’s biggest problem, a trend that explains ex-Officer Adams‘ rise.

Mr. Adams said the issue hit especially close to home last weekend when he was visiting a family whose children had been shot at by gang members. At the same moment, one of his campaign staffers was stabbed in an unrelated incident.

Mr. Yang, who rose to national prominence with his 2020 presidential bid and a proposal for a universal basic income, has said the city is in “crisis.” He told The Washington Times that his first task will be working with the city police and fire departments to restore public safety.

Ms. Garcia as well said it will be difficult to revive the economy unless the crime issue is resolved.

“The things that resonate here resonate everywhere — public safety, are you getting my kids back in school, are you keeping the streets clean, and what are you doing about the economy?” she said.

Given the contours of the race, voters are likely to select a moderate Democrat to help the city navigate its uncertain future instead of a progressive who might push more leftist policies such as defunding the police.

“It is entirely possible that in the nation’s most progressive city the most conservative candidate will prevail,” said Ross Baker, a politics professor at Rutgers University. “If so, there is a cautionary tale for Democrats nationally that progressivism is a niche presence among Democratic voters. If the election of Joe Biden didn’t make that point, chances are tomorrow’s winner will underscore it.”

Despite the stakes, the mayoral contest has lacked the sizzle and pop of past elections that featured colorful personalities like Ed Koch or headline-name reformers like Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg. Early voting began June 12 and ended Sunday, with 191,000 people casting votes during that span, and polls will be open until 9 p.m. on Tuesday.

The mayoral election “is like watching semi-pro baseball: the game is recognizable and competently played, but you can’t tell the players without a scorecard,” Mr. Baker said. “These are people whose names are recognizable only after prompting.”

Warren Kishner, a broadcast engineer, said he picked Mr. Donovan as his No. 1 but gave Mr. Yang his No. 2 slot because of what he called Mr. Yang‘s chutzpah.

“He’s got character. You have to have a certain amount of pizzazz to talk to people in this city,” he said. “This is a tough town. You got to stand up for [stuff].”

The final days of the race were marked by New York-style tussles among the top-tier candidates.

Mr. Yang and Ms. Garcia campaigned together in the final days of the campaign, hoping to cut into support for Mr. Adams. Mr. Adams, who is Black, accused his rivals of trying to suppress votes and bar a person of color from getting in office, prompting a rebuke from Ms. Wiley, who said Mr. Adams‘ charges were misplaced and that ranked-choice empowered voters.

Mr. Yang said the last thing New York needs is a leader who will play the race card in the face of challenges.

William Van Diepen, a financial consultant, said Mr. Adams is an “old-time politician” with “baggage” and criticized Mr. Yang‘s performance as a nonprofit executive. He selected Ms. Garcia with his No. 1 pick.

“I think women are, at the end of the day, smarter than men and yeah, it’s time for one to be mayor,” he said.

Earlier Tuesday, Ms. Garcia received a bouquet of roses from sanitation workers during roll call at the Manhattan 12 District Garage. She surged in the latter stages of the race and appeals to voters who want a mayor who knows the basics of running a city, including making sure the trash gets picked up.

Linda Wolff, an Upper West Side resident, said she picked Ms. Garcia as No. 1 because she’s handled a tough job and should understand people from different walks of life.

Ms. Garcia was adopted as a baby and grew up with multiracial siblings, giving her a unique perspective as Ms. Wolff cited “equality for brown and Black people.”

“For me, it is the biggest issue to do — for education and housing,” said Ms. Wolff, who owns a women’s clothing store and is disgusted by the entitled attitude of richer New Yorkers.

New date, new system

The city’s primary used to be held in September, so voters had to adjust to the new time frame in addition to the ranked-choice system.

Voters can select up to five candidates, ranking them in order of preference. If no candidate earns a majority vote — no one is expected to on Election Night — the ranked choices kick in. The candidate who received the fewest top-choice votes will be eliminated and their votes will be redistributed to their second-choice candidates.

The elections board will run a ranked-choice analysis on June 29, using only votes that were cast in person. On July 6, the board will conduct another round of ranked-choice analysis that includes all absentee ballots counted as of that date.

The rankings analysis will be run every subsequent Tuesday until a winner is declared.

Voters don’t have to vote for more than one candidate but ranking up to five candidates allows them to extend their influence and give them a better shot at getting a mayor close to their views.

Mr. Van Diepen said it’s unclear how long the process will take. The city is venturing into the great unknown, after all.

“It’s like the dark hole of the cosmic universe,” he said.

Dave Boyer contributed to this story.

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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