New York City held its Mayoral Primary Election on June 22, 2021. This primary election featured the first-ever use of ranked-choice voting in the city’s history. Frontrunners Eric Adams, Kathryn Garcia, Maya Wiley, Andrew Wang, Raymond McGuire, and Scott Stringer led the Democratic field. After the eight rounds of ranked voting tallies, the Election Board finalized the election results and declared Eric Adams (D) the winner of the Democratic Primary on July 6, 2021. Garcia and Wiley conceded the race to Adams the following day on July 7. On the Republican side, which featured only two candidates, Curtis Sliwa (R) defeated Fernando Mateo (R). The current New York City Mayor, Bill DeBlasio (D), was elected in 2013 and re-elected with 66% of the vote in 2017. Due to New York City term limits, DeBlasio was unable to run for re-election again.
Eric Adams Wins Democratic NYC Mayoral Primary After Eight Rounds of Ranked Choice Voting
After eight rounds of voting, Brooklyn Borough President, former police captain, and former NY State Senator, Eric Adams won the Democratic primary election for Mayor of New York City. In the final round of voting, the only other candidate remaining in a field of 13 candidates was the former President of the NY Sanitation Department, Kathryn Garcia. Adams defeated Garcia 50.4% to 49.6%, or 404,513 votes to 397,316, a margin of just 7,197 votes. After the first seven rounds of voting, no candidate received a majority of the votes, so the next preference votes were tallied for each eliminated candidate until one candidate had greater than 50% of the vote.
As a former police captain attempting to appeal to a broad base of centrist and moderate voters, Adams made police reform and crime prevention a focal point of his campaign. He stated, “But the debate around policing has been reduced to a false choice: You are either with police, or you are against them. No. That cannot be true. Because we are all for safety. We need the NYPD — we just need them to be better.”
Guardian Angels Founder Curtis Sliwa Wins Republican Nomination in NYC Mayoral Primary
Community activist, radio host, and founder of the nonprofit unarmed crime prevention group, the Guardian Angels, won the Republican Primary after the first round of ranked-choice voting. The primary featured only one other candidate, Fernando Mateo, an entrepreneur and President of the New York State Federation of Taxi Drivers. Sliwa defeated Mateo 71.9% to 28.1%, or 31,512 votes to 12,693. Of the five New York City boroughs, Sliwa was endorsed by the Brooklyn and Staten Island Republican Parties, while Mateo received endorsements from the Bronx, Manhattan, and Queens Republican Parties.
Both Republican candidates made crime prevention a focal point of their campaigns. From Curtis Sliwa’s campaign website, “All budget cuts to the police department must be restored. Shuttered anti-crime units must be reopened and allowed to do their jobs. The budget must also be increased to tackle the horrific spike in gun violence threatening our communities.” Mateo promised to clean the city and make it less dangerous.
Ranked Choice Controversy & November Outlook
Looking ahead to the general election, New York City currently has a Democratic mayor, and Democrats hold a majority of public city offices. Additionally, according to the New York City Board of Elections (BOE), about 67% of registered voters in the city are registered Democrats.
On June 22, after the first round of in-person voting in the Democratic primary, questions surrounded the remaining vote totals and the outstanding number of mail-in ballots. According to the BOE, preliminary first-place in-person voting showed Adams in the lead with 30.7% of the vote among the 13 candidates.
On June 29, the BOE released new vote totals but then scrapped those after it mistakenly included test ballots in first-round tallies, showing 142,005 more votes than the total shown the first night on June 22. A day later, the BOE swiftly fixed the error, and the city released the accurate ranked-choice totals on June 30. However, those totals did not include about 125,000 outstanding absentee ballots that still BOE had to tabulate.
After the BOE tabulated the remaining absentee ballots, the final results on July 6 showed a slight lead for Adams over Garcia. Garcia and Wiley both conceded the race to Adams the following day on July 7. Most major candidates in the race criticized the BOE’s handling of the tabulation and questioned the numbers the city released. On Monday, July 19, the State Assembly held a hearing to address the rollout of ranked-choice voting, and the State Senate elections committee is in the midst of a series of hearings on the issue as well.