Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams has won the Democratic primary for New York City mayor, the Associated Press reported Tuesday evening.
With nearly all of the absentee ballots finally counted by the city’s notoriously inept Board of Elections, Adams—a former police officer who would be the city’s second Black mayor—bested former Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia by about 8,500 votes, or one percentage point.
This was the city’s first major primary to use a ranked choice voting system meant to avoid costly runoffs and in which voters could order their top five choices, with their ballot moving to their next pick if their previous one was eliminated until one candidate claimed 50 percent support. Adams had led by nearly 15,000 first-choice votes after in-person voting concluded, and held on after about 125,000 thousand absentee ballots were counted and ranked choices tallied in an election run in the shadow of the pandemic that ravaged the city last year.
Adams will face Republican Curtis Sliwa in November’s general election. But given the city’s overwhelmingly Democratic tilt, it’s unlikely that the Guardian Angels founder and longtime city character backed by former Mayor Rudy Giuliani will be able to make a real contest of it, let alone prevail. Bizarrely, the general election will be a “regular” contest in which voters have one choice.
Adams, a longtime police reformer, ran on a message of public safety that resonated as the number of shootings in the city doubled in 2020, a development that outgoing and term-limited Mayor Bill de Blasio suggested was a result of the pandemic.
Adams—who told me last year that he would carry a gun as mayor, which retired police officers are allowed to do, and fire his security detail— carried every borough except Manhattan, where Garcia, who ran on a platform of technocratic competence, dominated.
The vote is not yet certified, and Garcia and police reformer Maya Wiley, who finished third, have yet to concede, Adams put out a statement declaring that “the results are clear: an historic, diverse, five-borough coalition led by working-class New Yorkers led us to victory.”
In a primary decided by fewer than 10,000 votes, nearly 140,000 voters "exhausted" their ballots, meaning that they did not rank all five choices so that their votes were discarded after their final pick was eliminated in the ranked-choice counting.
Adams, who grew up in Bushwick and was beaten by the police as a teen before joining the department himself to try to reform it from within, ran a campaign promising to restore New York to New Yorkers who’ve been left behind by decades of progress and gentrification.
He gave a fiery speech on Martin Luther King Day at the Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network in 2020, where he ripped newcomers to the city who are “hijacking your apartments and displacing your living arrangements” and told them to “go back to Iowa! You go back to Ohio! New York City belongs to the people that [were] here and made New York City what it is.”
He also focused on rising gun violence as a threat of prosperity and security as some other candidates, including Wiley, in effect ran against the NYPD in the aftermath of last summer’s George Floyd protests.
Adams, who was endorsed by Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post, was one of the leading candidates in limited public polling of the race through the campaign. He maintained that position even as media coverage focused on Andrew Yang, who faded in the homestretch and finished a distant fourth, and then on the sexual harassment allegations that derailed the campaign of Comptroller Scott Stringer. That coverage opened up a space for Garcia to surge in the race’s closing weeks after winning the endorsements of The New York Times and the Daily News, which ranked Adams second.
About one in four of the city’s roughly 3.7 million Democrats voted, meaning that Adams is on track to become the next mayor of a city of nearly 8.5 million on the basis of just over 400,000 votes. Sadly, that’s a significant improvement on the “mandate” claimed by de Blasio, who won the 2013 Democratic primary with about 260,000 votes.