By Colby Itkowitz,
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams was projected the winner in the New York City Democratic mayoral primary on Tuesday, bringing to a close a chaotic and drawn-out election complicated by a debacle in initially tallying the results under a new voting process.
Adams has held first place since the June 22 primary, but his lead narrowed considerably as ranked-choice ballots were analyzed, eliminating less-popular candidates and distributing their votes to a voter’s second, third or fourth pick. The projection by the Associated Press came after updated results from absentee ballots were released Tuesday.
“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 said in a statement.
“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.”
New York’s new ranked-choice system allowed former sanitation commissioner Kathryn Garcia and civil rights lawyer Maya Wiley to chip away at Adams’s lead. Under the rules, it would have been possible for them to overcome his margin had the absentee ballots broken their way.
But after more than 100,000 absentee ballots were counted, Adams kept his lead, besting Garcia by a little more than 8,000 votes, or 1 percent of the vote, out of nearly 1 million cast.
Garcia had not conceded by Tuesday night, instead announcing plans to make public remarks about the results on Wednesday morning at the Women’s Rights Pioneers Monument in Central Park.
Adams is heavily favored to win the November general election against Republican Curtis Sliwa because of New York City’s overwhelming Democratic voting base. He would be the city’s second Black mayor.
A retired police officer, Adams ran as an advocate for the working class, shoring up his campaign with endorsements from labor unions and eschewing the wealthier parts of the city. He aimed his appeal at blue-collar workers, representing a more centrist ideology and focus on crime than some of his more liberal opponents.
Adams’s win is a blow to liberal groups and politicians — including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), who endorsed Wiley, and who saw victories in contests elsewhere on the ballot.
Adams won 32 percent of the vote among New York Democrats who voted on or before Election Day. Wiley came in second with 22 percent of the vote, and Garcia received 19.5 percent.
But the city had adopted ranked-choice voting in a mayor’s race for the first time, which allowed voters to list up to five candidates in order of preference. Because no one received more than 50 percent of first-choice votes, the last-place candidate was eliminated and that person’s votes were redistributed to whomever those voters ranked second. The process repeated until there was a winner.
As the ranked choices were factored in, Adams’s lead narrowed and Garcia slipped into second place, with Wiley a few hundred votes behind her.
The race was briefly marred by an embarrassing blunder by the New York City Board of Elections, which released partial results last week, only to be forced to rescind them several hours later because it had accidentally included around 135,000 test ballots in the count.
When they were retabulated, Adams still led Garcia by less than 15,000 votes with 125,000 absentee ballots still outstanding. Garcia was bolstered by Andrew Yang, the former presidential candidate who then ran for mayor and encouraged his supporters to list Garcia second on their ballots.
Adams railed against the alliance. In the final days of the race, his campaign sent out a news release that called it “a cynical attempt by Garcia and Yang to disenfranchise Black voters,” causing some Democrats to balk at Adams’s suggestion that opposition to his candidacy was about race.