The race offers a window into issues of crime, race, social justice and economic inequality that will resonate well beyond the confines of the city and could end up setting the agenda of a Democratic Party seeking to satisfy and expand its restive, politically potent urban base. Furthermore, winning the Democratic primary normally spells victory in November given the city’s political makeup.
Here are seven important things to know about the contest.
1. Crime is the number one issue voters are concerned about
2. The winner will almost certainly be a woman or person of color
3. Candidates in the campaign’s crowded left lane suffered crippling mishaps
Wiley has tried to assemble the broken pieces of both candidacies, touting herself as the most progressive contender who can actually win. The outcome on primary day will tell whether she succeeded.
4. Andrew Yang has energized a new coalition that includes New York’s fast-growing Asian population
As a former presidential candidate, Yang started the race with high name recognition and was initially leading in opinion polls, but that advantage has evaporated in recent weeks. Yang’s problems stemmed from a lack of political experience: not only has he never run for public office other than the presidency, records show he never voted in municipal elections during the 20-plus years he has lived in the city, and was attacked by his rivals for leaving the city during the pandemic to stay with his family in a vacation home.
5. Several heavy-hitters in the race have never run for office before
6. New York’s primary is happening at an unusual time of year, under brand new rules
New York is, for the first time, using ranked-choice voting (RCV) for citywide races. Under ranked choice, voters will select their top five candidates in order of preference. If no candidate wins 50% or more of the vote, the lowest vote-getter is eliminated and their votes are reallocated to whoever his or her supporters ranked second. The numbers then get recalculated, and the process repeats until a candidate gets more than 50%.
7. The logic of ranked choice voting has led rival candidates to team up
8. The bottom line
Adams heads into the primary with a firm but not commanding lead. Wiley and Garcia have been rising in recent polls, raising the possibility of New York electing its first woman mayor. Yang may end up re-writing the script of how mayors get elected. And the overall uncertainty of ranked choice voting makes it hard to predict the political direction of post-pandemic New York.