Mr. Adams held off Kathryn Garcia after a count of 118,000 absentee ballots saw his substantial lead on primary night narrow to a single percentage point.
Eric L. Adams, who rose from poverty to become an iconoclastic police captain and the borough president of Brooklyn, won the Democratic nomination for mayor of New York City on Tuesday, according to The Associated Press, putting him on track to become the second Black mayor in the history of the nation’s largest city.
The contest was seen as one of the city’s most critical elections in a generation, with the winner expected to help New York set a recovery course from the economic devastation of Covid-19 and from the longstanding racial and socioeconomic inequalities that the pandemic deepened.
But as the campaign entered its final months, a spike in shootings and homicides drove public safety and crime to the forefront of voters’ minds, and Mr. Adams — the only leading candidate with a law enforcement background — moved urgently to demonstrate authority on the issue.
Mr. Adams held an 8,400-vote lead over Kathryn Garcia, a margin of one percentage point — small enough that it was not immediately clear whether she or any of his opponents would contest the result in court. All three leading candidates had filed to maintain the option to challenge the results. If no one does so, Mr. Adams’s victory could be certified as soon as next week.
The results came after the city’s Board of Elections counted an additional 118,000 absentee ballots and then deployed a ranked-choice elimination system — the first time New York has used it in a mayoral election.
Thirteen Democratic candidates were whittled down one by one, with the candidate with the fewest first-place votes eliminated, and those votes were redistributed to the voters’ next-ranked choice. Maya Wiley, a former counsel to Mayor Bill de Blasio who emerged late in the primary as a left-wing standard-bearer, was eliminated following the seventh round of tabulations.
Ms. Garcia won far more of Ms. Wiley’s votes than Mr. Adams did, but not quite enough to close the gap.
Still, it was a striking result for Ms. Garcia, a candidate who until recently was little known and who lacked the institutional support and the political operation that helped propel Mr. Adams, a veteran city politician.
In heavily Democratic New York City, Mr. Adams will be the overwhelming favorite in the general election against Curtis Sliwa, the Republican nominee and the founder of the Guardian Angels.
“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,” Mr. Adams, 60, 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,” he added.
Neither Ms. Garcia nor Ms. Wiley has conceded, and their campaigns noted that the results were not yet completely final.
“Today, we have nearly final results for Democratic primary for mayor,” a Garcia campaign statement said. “We are currently seeking additional clarity on the number of outstanding ballots and are committed to supporting the Democratic nominee.”
The final-round matchup between Mr. Adams and Ms. Garcia illustrated sharp divisions within the Democratic Party along the lines of race, class and education.
Mr. Adams, who cast himself as a blue-collar candidate, led in every borough except Manhattan in the tally of first-choice votes and was the strong favorite among working-class Black and Latino voters. He also demonstrated strength with white voters who held more moderate views, especially, some data suggests, among those voters who did not have college degrees — a coalition that has been likened to the one that propelled President Biden to the Democratic nomination in 2020.
Ms. Garcia, a former sanitation commissioner who ran on a message of technocratic competence, had strong appeal to white moderate voters across the five boroughs.But she was overwhelmingly the candidate of Manhattan, dominating in some of the wealthiest ZIP codes in the country. She strongly appealed to highly educated and more affluent voters across the ideological spectrum there and in parts of brownstone Brooklyn, even as she struggled to connect with voters of color elsewhere in the kinds of numbers it would have taken to win.
The results capped a remarkable stretch in the city’s political history: The race began in a pandemic and took several unexpected twists in the final weeks. Most recently, it was colored by a vote-tallying disaster at the Board of Elections, leaving simmering concerns among Democrats about whether the eventual outcome would leave voters divided and mistrustful of the city’s electoral process. In a statement Tuesday night, Ms. Wiley thanked her supporters and expressed grave concerns about the Board of Elections.
“We will have more to say about the next steps shortly,” the statement said. “Today we simply must recommit ourselves to a reformed Board of Elections and build new confidence in how we administer voting in New York City. New York City’s voters deserve better, and the B.O.E. must be completely remade following what can only be described as a debacle.”
Under the ranked-choice voting system, voters could rank up to five candidates on their ballots in preferential order. Because Mr. Adams did not receive more than 50 percent of first-choice votes on the initial tally, the winner was decided by ranked-choice elimination.
Ms. Garcia came in third place among voters who cast ballots in person on Primary Day and during the early voting period, trailing both Mr. Adams and Ms. Wiley. But on the strength of ranked-choice voting, she surged into second place, with significant support from voters who had ranked Ms. Wiley and Andrew Yang, a former presidential candidate, as their top choices.
Ms. Garcia and Mr. Yang spent time during the final days of the race campaigning together and appearing on joint campaign literature, a team-up that plainly benefited Ms. Garcia under the ranked-choice process after Mr. Yang, who began the race as a front-runner but plummeted to fourth place on Primary Day, dropped out.
Ms. Wiley, a favorite of younger left-wing voters, had sought to build a broad multiracial coalition, and she earned the support of some of New York’s most prominent Democratic members of Congress.
Mr. Adams and Ms. Garcia both ran as relative moderates on policy issues, including policing, education and their postures toward the business and real estate communities.
Mr. Adams especially put issues of public safety at the center of his campaign, pushing for urgent action to combat a rise in gun violence and troubling incidents of subway crimes as well as bias attacks, especially against Asian Americans and Jews. While crime rates are nowhere near those of more violent earlier eras, policing still became the most divisive subject in the mayoral race.
Mr. Adams took a more sweeping view of the Police Department’s role in ensuring public safety than a number of rivals did.
But some older voters had first heard about Mr. Adams when he was a younger member of the police force, pushing to rein in police misconduct.
That background helped him emerge as a candidate with perceived credibility on issues of both combating crime and curbing police violence. And some Democrats, aware that national Republicans are eager to caricature their party as insufficiently concerned about crime, have taken note of Mr. Adams’s messaging — even if his career and life story are, in practice, difficult for other candidates to automatically replicate.
“What Eric Adams has said quite well is that we need to listen to communities that are concerned about public safety, even as we fight for critical reforms in policing and racial justice more broadly in our society,” said Representative Sean Patrick Maloney, a New York Democrat and the chairman of the Democratic House campaign arm, who endorsed Mr. Adams the day before the primary.
While Mr. Adams was named the winner on Tuesday night, he faces significant challenges in unifying the city around his candidacy. He has faced scrutiny over transparency issues concerning his tax and real estate disclosures; his fund-raising practices and even questions of residency, issues that may intensify under the glare of the nominee’s spotlight, and certainly as mayor, should he win as expected in November.
Michael Gold, Dana Rubinstein and Emma G. Fitzsimmons contributed reporting.
Author: Katie Glueck
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