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.