Adams has a sizable lead after chaotic New York primary

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NEW YORK — Eric Adams rode an anti-crime message to a commanding lead in the crowded race to replace outgoing Mayor Bill de Blasio, ousting former presidential contender Andrew Yang and holding off nearly a dozen other Democrats.

But under New York’s new ranked-choice voting system, the election now heads into an instant runoff that could last for weeks and keep the Brooklyn borough president from officially claiming his party’s nomination.

Adams has stayed atop polls for weeks, and his margin Tuesday night was wider than many surveys conducted in the race so far. More than 31 percent of voters listed him as their first choice to be mayor. Attorney Maya Wiley, who won a late surge of support on the left, took 22 percent of first-place votes, and former sanitation commissioner Kathryn Garcia won 20 percent of first-place ballots as of midnight.

Adams, a former NYPD captain, all but declared victory Tuesday night.

“New York City said our first choice is Eric Adams," he said in a speech that was at turns celebratory and combative.

Yang, who took in just under 12 percent of the first-choice votes, conceded two hours after polls closed. But for Wiley and Garcia, the race is not over yet.

“Ranked choice voting is about choice. Voting is about voice,” Wiley said from her election party in Brooklyn. “I don’t know what New Yorkers have chosen tonight. None of us do because the votes are still being counted.”

Under the new system, voters were asked to pick five candidates in order of preference. The city's Board of Elections won't tally those votes until next Tuesday, and Garcia and Wiley could pick up some steam, but Adams will also have second- and third-place votes that will bolster his current lead. Absentee ballots aren't likely to be tabulated until early July.

Garcia did not say if she expects to pull out a win under the new system.

“I know we’re not going to know a lot more tonight,” she said at her election party in Brooklyn.

The winner of Tuesday’s Democratic primary will face Republican nominee Curtis Sliwa in the general election. But the Democrat is almost certain to become mayor and will arrive at City Hall during a time of unique challenge: Recovering from high unemployment, flattened tourism and a chaotic school year of remote learning spurred by the Covid-19 pandemic.

At the same time, if a sustained rise in violent crime continues apace, de Blasio’s successor will confront a rash of shootings and hate crimes that continue to threaten the city’s recovery.

Crime frequently topped polls as a leading concern among voters, vaulting Adams — a former police captain who ran almost singularly on a promise of restoring safety to the city — into first place and minimizing the impact of the “defund NYPD” movement that got a foothold in city politics last year.

Adams, during his speech Tuesday, spoke of the realities faced by New Yorkers in neighborhoods that have felt the brunt of a spike in shootings. Last week, two children in the Bronx were nearly killed in the crossfire of a targeted shooting. He chastised his rivals for speaking in academic terms about combating the violence.

“This is the normality in far too many communities, and how dare those with their philosophical and intellectual theorizing and their classroom mindset talking about the theory of policing," he said in swipe that seemed directed at Wiley in particular. "You don’t know this. I know this. I’m going to keep my city safe.”

Yang, Garcia and Wiley, former counsel to de Blasio, formed the top-tier of the crowded race in recent weeks. Yang and Garcia were the only ones to form a late alliance in the race, a common move in other ranked-choice campaigns around the country.

New York City mayoral candidate Maya Wiley speaks to reporters during a news conference.
New York City mayoral candidate Maya Wiley speaks to reporters during a news conference.


Yang spent months in first place after bursting into the primary with high name recognition and a relentlessly positive message. He filmed an ad riding the famous Cyclone roller coaster to tout the city’s comeback, made a show of buying movie tickets with his wife when theaters reopened and took on the powerful teacher’s union over school closures.

But the city’s steady reopening throughout the spring took some of the wind out of Yang’s sails, and his campaign faltered amid a series of public mistakes that critics said demonstrated what they had feared all along: A candidate who never voted in a mayoral election during his 25 years in the city lacked the municipal know-how for the job.

Sensing the public’s growing concern over crime, Yang adopted a strong anti-crime posture, but it was difficult to wrest the issue from Adams, who boasted 22 years on the police force and spoke openly about being assaulted by cops as a Black teenager in Queens.

The two developed a bitter rivalry, which was on full display during televised debates. Yang has recently taken to questioning Adams’ true residence following a story by POLITICO detailing confusing answers and botched paperwork about where he lives.

Adams and his surrogates went as far as accusing Yang and Garcia of attempted voter suppression of Black New Yorkers by teaming up in the final days of the race. They said their joint appearances were part of a strategy to appeal to one another’s supporters, but Adams slammed the arrangement, at one point invoking poll taxes that were employed to suppress Black votes.

Andrew Yang and Kathryn Garcia at campaign events.
Andrew Yang and Kathryn Garcia at campaign events.

Garcia made a surprising surge in her first bid for public office. She was lagging in the polls and facing difficulty fundraising, but the coveted endorsement of the New York Times and Daily News editorial boards helped propel her to the top tier late enough in the race that she did not sustain many negative attacks. In recent weeks, Adams began airing ads attacking her.

Wiley, the leading progressive candidate, competed for attention and endorsements with city Comptroller Scott Stringer and nonprofit CEO Dianne Morales, and didn’t pick up sufficient steam until each of their campaigns imploded.

Wiley decided to join the race last summer, as the city was gripped by police accountability protests that matched her passion and experience. But the ground shifted under her and her law enforcement reform agenda did not end up matching the wishes of a majority of voters.

Yang, who leveraged his presidential celebrity and an avid Twitter following to dominate early polls, acknowledged Tuesday he had little chance of prevailing.

“You all know I am a numbers guy, I'm someone who traffics in what's happening by the numbers," Yang told supporters in Manhattan. "And I am not going to be the next mayor of New York City based upon the numbers that have come in. Tonight I am conceding this race.”

Still, Adams took a veiled swipe at Yang.

"What some candidates misunderstood is that social media does not pick a candidate," he said. "People on social security pick a candidate. And so you can have a lot of likes on social media, but you need a lot of votes for social security.”

But he ended his remarks on a cheerful note — reminiscent of Yang's own optimistic campaign — promising economic development, self-driving cars and renewed businesses.

“I’m going to promise you in one year, one year, you’re going to see a different city," he said.

Danielle Muoio contributed to this report.