The whole race was shaped by rising crime, and by media coverage of anti-Asian attacks and street violence. Andrew Yang, who had a following from his presidential bid but no experience in elected office, led in polls for months and grabbed most of the attention online. Gaffes about legal codes and city bureaucracies didn't change that, and at the start of May, the media covering Yang asked if they had been underrating his “breezy” appeal.
That was not how Yang ended the campaign — trailing in polls, accusing Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams of corruption and breaking a liberal taboo by saying that violent mentally ill New Yorkers were being treated too leniently. In debates and interviews, Yang was genuinely rattled by attacks on Asian Americans committed by mentally ill people, and he did not back down after rivals called his response offensive.
“We all see these mentally ill people on our streets and subways, and you know who else sees them? Tourists,” Yang told conservative radio host John Catsimatidis on Monday. “Then they don’t come back, and they tell their friends, ‘Don’t go to New York City.’ ”
No longer the favorite, Yang is one of three candidates closely training Adams in polls; the others are former city sanitation commissioner Kathryn Garcia and civil rights attorney Maya Wiley. Only Wiley has run as an ideological liberal, in line with the city's young, rising left. But liberal ideas have surfaced: All four have promised to expand affordable housing, with Wiley and Yang proposing that vacant offices and hotels could be rezoned. All four have pledged to rebuild equitably after the coronavirus, with Adams promising to be a “blue-collar mayor.” Wiley proposed shifting $1 billion from the NYPD's budget and putting money into trauma-informed care for kids in school. Adams and Yang, meanwhile, talked about revisiting a law that allows police officers to be prosecuted for executing chokeholds, and took pains to praise the NYPD.
“I don’t hate police departments,” Adams told the New York Times. “I hate abusive policing, and that’s what people mix up.”
Adams benefited from a strong base of Black voters, and from Yang taking fire for most of the campaign. Both candidates benefited from super PACs, lavishly funded by donors such as New York Mets owner Steven A. Cohen and hedge fund manager Kenneth Griffin. Garcia and Wiley raised less, though an infusion from the city's public financing system kept them competitive, with Garcia buying up digital ad time.
We'll know a lot tonight, as the city counts first-choice ballots cast from the early voting period through Election Day. (Polls close at 9 p.m. Eastern). We won't get the totals for every ballot until July 12. Here are a few things to watch at the top of the ballot and all the way down.
How big is the electorate? Turnout in New York primaries peaked 32 years ago, when Manhattan Borough President David Dinkins ousted Mayor Ed Koch, with nearly 1.1 million ballots cast. Fewer than 700,000 turned out in 2013, a late-breaking race that ended when Bill de Blasio surged ahead with Black voters. Since then, Democrats have updated the state and city's archaic voting rules, pushing the primary up — it had been in September — creating a week of early voting and offering ways for absentee voters to correct their ballots if a problem keeps them out of the count.
By Sunday evening, when the early voting period closed, nearly 192,000 New Yorkers had cast ballots in person. The majority of those votes came from Manhattan and Brooklyn, a typical pattern in modern Democratic primaries. Nearly 210,000 more voters had requested absentee ballots, with fewer than half returning them by Monday.
It's not clear what that means for overall turnout, though multiple campaigns expect eventual turnout between 800,000 and 900,000, between a quarter and one-third of all eligible Democrats. Democrats were surprised in this month's Virginia primaries, when thin early voting was followed by robust Election Day voting.
Voting changes have made it slightly easier to show up, more money is being spent to bring out voters and the race is genuinely competitive, unlike the de Blasio rout that 2009 turned into. Yang's campaign, which doesn't dispute that he has fallen from his spring peak, is betting on high turnout from voters who usually skip municipal primaries.
Where does Adams win? Pollsters and rival campaign strategists expect Adams to lead in the first count of ballots. They also believe that the further the leading candidate is from a majority, the more likely it is that another candidate could surpass them. If Adams reaches 35 percent of the vote, and if no rival is within 10 points of him, the second-, third-, fourth-, and fifth-choice votes for other candidates probably will be too divided to overcome Adams.
What would a big Adams advantage look like? Nathaniel Rakish's guide to the city's “five political boroughs” is a big help here. Adams's overwhelming support from Black voters, especially those over 40, should show up in the Bronx, which usually lags behind the city's other big liberal boroughs in turnout.
Adams should dominate the Black-majority neighborhoods of Brooklyn, but Rep. Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.), who represents a swath of them, has endorsed Wiley. That part of the city has been open to backing a left-wing Black candidate in the past, but not when a more moderate Black candidate has been on the ballot.
The White liberal neighborhoods of Manhattan and Brooklyn are not natural Adams territory, but we'll know tonight just how divided those voters were on more liberal alternatives.
What backfired at the end? Adams, who navigated some of the race's strangest controversies, rarely lost his cool. In debates, he complimented candidates for trying their best “feisty” attacks; he seemed to relish in attacking Andrew Yang. But in the final weekend, when Yang formed a ranked-choice alliance with Garcia, Adams blew up, dispatching surrogates to accuse the duo of racism and of trying to keep a working- class Black man out of City Hall. That was too much even for Adams's rivals.
“I will never play the race card lightly unless I see racism,” Wiley told reporters, “and I’m not calling this racism.”
Adams's goal was for Black voters to get fired up about his campaign. Garcia's goal was to get the second-preference votes of Yang voters who have not warmed to any other candidate, especially Asian American voters at the edge of Queens. Yang's advantage here is less obvious, but Adams gave him an opening, talking so dismissively about his rival that Yang, for the final time, could say that Asian voters were being disrespected. “I've been Asian all my life,” he quipped to reporters, asked about the insistence of the Adams campaign that the deal with Garcia was a coup for White voters. (Garcia, whose ex-husband is Puerto Rican, is White.)
There are signs that the deal helped Yang and Garcia, and some signs that it backfired. Public Advocate Jumaane Williams went out of his way to say he would not rank Garcia after her deal, so opposed was he to Yang. Karl McKoy, 60, a landscaper from England by way of Jamaica, ranked Adams first and Wiley second, but decided to leave both Yang and Garcia off his ballot after learning about their deal. “It just seemed like a strategic playing of the system,” he said. “I really didn't like that move.”
Where do voters for straggling candidates go? Wiley's last-minute surge came at the expense of two candidates beset by very different problems: long-ago sexual misconduct allegations against city Comptroller Scott Stringer, and the spectacular staff revolt of the Dianne Morales campaign. The latter was a clearer boost to Wiley, as some left-wing voters were parking their first-choice preference with Morales, abandoning her once she looked too incompetent to compete. Stringer, who has denied the allegations, had hoped to unite left-wing voters and good-government liberals and has only belatedly sunk in the polls. But he spent more time attacking Yang and Adams than he did trying to win back votes from Wiley.
“I actually don't think you're an empty vessel,” Stringer told Yang in one debate, referring to a damaging article about how Yang consultants viewed him. “I think you're a Republican.”
We'll know tonight whether voters broke away from fading candidates — add former Citi executive Ray McGuire and former HUD secretary Shaun Donovan to that list. We'll know less whether voters took advantage of the ranked-choice system to cast sympathy or conscience votes for the lower-tier candidates, leaving the mystery of their next choices unsolved until July.
What was the AOC effect? Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was one of the primary's most sought-after endorsers, elevating comptroller candidate Brad Lander's profile — she stars in one of his ads — and leading the migration of Morales voters over to Wiley. Wiley's gains also came at the expense of Stringer; the comptroller's campaign hoped for an Ocasio-Cortez endorsement, but wrote it off after the allegations. (On Election Day, the congresswoman revealed that she had ranked Stringer second.)
Derrick Jackson, 45, and Marc Hurlbert, 51, a couple who voted in Jackson Heights on Sunday, had decided on Wiley as they walked toward the polls, moved in part by the good word of their member of Congress: Ocasio-Cortez. “She and Elizabeth Warren are backing her and that's all I needed,” Jackson said. “We need to be more progressive. I'm sick of straddling the fence and, you know, baby steps, baby steps. You have need someone who's actually going to go in and make a change.”
Ocasio-Cortez is the best known of many New York liberal politicians who have climbed into office by defeating a local machine. Six city council candidates are, like Ocasio-Cortez, backed by Democratic Socialists of America; the race to watch is in the 35th Council District, where DSA-backed Michael Hollingsworth is facing Krystal Hudson, a Jeffries-backed candidate, on a crowded ballot.
Does the left split the vote? For the left, a good election night — or, let's be honest, election month — would be victories for Wiley and Lander, victories for the DSA's city council candidates, and a victory for India Walton in Buffalo's mayoral primary. (Albany, Rochester and Syracuse are also holding mayoral primaries today, along with the small Long Island city of Glen Cove.) Depending on whom you ask, it would also mean a victory for attorney Tahanie Aboushi in the race for Manhattan district attorney\ or, alternately, a win for former prosecutor Alvin Bragg.
That race has split the mainstream left, with the Working Families Party backing Aboushi and other left-wing and liberal advocates backing Bragg. And because this is a county race, where ranked-choice voting won't be used and a plurality would win, backers of both worry about Tali Farhadian Weinstein breaking through. A veteran of the Obama administration's Justice Department, she has made reformers nervous and made opponents furious, spending $8.3 million of her family's money on a campaign that, among other things, accused Bragg and another candidate of favoring the rights of “domestic abusers,” and dismissed attacks on her self-financing as “misogyny.”
Polling has been sparse, but a survey from the left-wing Data for Progress put Bragg nearly 10 points ahead of Farhadian Weinstein, boosted by his New York Times endorsement.
Does anybody protest the results? We could get a hint of that tonight, too, but the question might linger for days. Three years ago, a Republican who got the most first-choice votes in a Maine congressional race sued after second-choice votes put now-Rep. Jared Golden (D-Maine) ahead. The case got nowhere, but the tenor of Adams's remarks this weekend has fueled speculation that he would seek legal remedy if he comes out ahead tonight, as multiple campaigns expect, but loses as the count continues, as multiple campaigns hope.
Jada Yuan contributed reporting from New York.
“New Yorkers vote in primaries for mayor after a race dominated by crime and coronavirus recovery,” by Jada Yuan and David Weigel
Come for the vote, stay a few weeks for the counting.
“Voting debate roils Washington but leaves many voters cold,” by Nicholas Riccardi
Do Democrats on the ground care about a “fight for democracy?”
“Biden struggles to sell democracy abroad when it faces challenges at home,” by Ashley Parker, Anne Gearan and Sean Sullivan
Is post-Jan. 6 America a good democratic model?
“Can the socialist mayor rise again?” by Danielle Tcholakian
The battle for Buffalo.
What does a fight over “education” mean in the commonwealth?
You provide the pictures, I'll provide the audit.
“Republicans, spurred by an unlikely figure, see political promise in targeting critical race theory,” by Laura Meckler and Josh Dawsey
From a buzzword to a scream.
The story of Scott Stringer.
On the trail
KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Raul Lopez, 58, had been voting Republican all his life. Some of his Latino friends in Nashville had not. On Saturday, as he listened to panels at the Faith & Freedom Coalition's annual Road to Majority conference, Lopez, who works in prison ministry, was optimistic that things were changing.
“One of my friends was at a rally for immigration reform, and somebody tried to give him a rainbow flag,” Lopez recalled. “After the election, we had the 1776 Commission on what history should be taught. Democrats came in and threw that away. It's like, shoving it in peoples' faces.”
Social conservatives have courted Latino voters for decades, betting that the leftward shift of the Democratic Party will eventually drive them away. In 2020, Donald Trump didn't win as big a share of the Latino vote as George W. Bush had. But he did better than Democrats imagined he could, making real inroads with working class and conservative Latinos, from Cubans like Lopez to Tejanos on the U.S.-Mexico border.
“We probably had 250 Hispanics and African Americans last year,” said FFC founder Ralph Reed as the weekend conference came to a close. “We have probably between 700 and 800 this year. And our plan is to just keep building and keep growing and keep building out our ground game.”
Reed said that 3,000 attendees stopped by the conference over three days, and that the diversity of the conference had grown for a number of reasons, including the group's focus on prison reform and the decision to hold the event in Florida. He'd first brought FFC members and activists together for a conference in 2010, and the difference between then and now was visible. In the hallways, attendees talked in Spanish, were stopped by Spanish-language media and listened to a Latino church group play devotional music.
“A majority of Hispanics are conservative,” said Nilsa Alvarez, a pastor and FFC organizer. “The rhetoric coming from the left is eerily similar to the same campaign promises and strategies that were launched by the Castro regime. That's gotten the attention of the Hispanic voter.”
Some of this was overstatement. Polling has found the share of Latino voters who call themselves “conservative” to be not much lower than the share of White voters who say the same. Most White voters back Republicans; most Latinos still vote Democratic.
But one premise of this year's conference was that Democrats kept giving conservatives openings with Latino voters, by elevating the LGBTQ activists and Ibram Kendi-inspired anti-racists in their coalition. During George W. Bush's presidency, the GOP reached out to observant, mostly Catholic Latino voters by highlighting its opposition to abortion rights and, at that point, same-sex marriage. Over the weekend members of Congress and Latino organizers hammered “critical race theory” and the push for transgender children to play on sports teams according to the gender they identify with.
“The vast majority of Hispanics know their gender; they don't appreciate someone trying to tell them what they are,” Alvarez said.
Missing nationally, though not in Florida, was Republican governance that could demonstrate to Latinos why they should abandon the Democrats. Former White House adviser Jennifer Luna told the crowd that Trump made inroads, in part, by bringing Latinos to the White House and pledging to use government to help them.
“I bet most of you have not heard of the White House Hispanic Prosperity Initiative, or the American Dream Plan that would have brought out 500,000 new Hispanic small business owners and created 2 million more new jobs,” Luna told the crowd. “When we put those plans out there, there was crickets.” Fox News, she said, was the rare network that covered the plans in full. (The “American Dream Plan,” released just days before the 2020 election, was covered by most media as a gimmick, like the abandoned Trump proposal for a tax cut after the 2018 midterms.)
Eric Adams, “Join Us.” Closing out his mayoral campaign atop the polls, Adams is running a familiar “front-runner” ad, mocking his opponents for getting “desperate” and attacking him. “We have one word for those kinds of attacks,” says Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz, Jr. A firefighter finishes the thought with an unprintable eight-letter word. (Clue: The first four letters are printable.)
Maya Wiley, “Big Moment.” A final straight-to-camera ad from Wiley positions her as as an alternative to Adams and Yang, the frame she has wanted as the troubles of weaker left-wing candidates helped her gain ground. “We can elect yet another ally of the developers, the establishment, and the police unions,” Wiley says, “or we can elect someone with the courage to take them on.”
Dianne Morales, “Putting You First.” New York's public financing system doesn't take sides, doling out funds to candidates who are on a roll and candidates whose campaigns are functionally over. “I knew people would question my viability,” Morales says, “but I have never accepted other peoples' limitations on my abilities.” She is pictured raising a fist in a shirt that reads “Patriarchy is a…” followed by a five-letter curse word, at the end of a campaign where, even before much of her staff departed, she was tagged as a sloganeering latecomer to left-wing politics.
Curtis Sliwa, “We Found Our Angel.” Democratic candidates for mayor have tread carefully around the crime issue; Sliwa, a candidate for the GOP's mayoral nomination, starts and ends with it. “Curtis will re-fund the police,” a narrator says after recounting the young Sliwa's creation of the Guardian Angels safety program in the 1970s.
Brad Lander, “Bring Out the Best.” The endorsement of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (R-N.Y.) has featured in two of Lander's spots, and here the congresswoman gets the starring role. “He has a people-first recovery plan,” she says, addressing a small audience, and us, as Lander stands by. “That's why he's endorsed by Elizabeth Warren, [public advocate] Jumaane Williams, and me.” Lander, running for city comptroller, doesn't say a word.
Michelle Caruso-Cabrera, “Twice As Good.” A former CNBC anchor who challenged Ocasio-Cortez in her 2020 primary, Caruso-Cabrera quickly jumped into the comptroller race, where she is still an underdog, but without the same interest from national donors. This feminist spot promises that she'll work “10 times” as hard as anyone else, for liberal priorities such as “free college tuition” (by pressuring the City University of New York to drop charges).
Alvin Bragg, “Preet Bharara for Alvin Bragg.” Bragg, the only Black candidate for Manhattan district attorney, is running in a race where White liberals cast a considerable share of the vote. While one rival touts her support from Hillary Clinton and Eric Holder, Bragg taps another Democrat identified with battling Trump, especially in TV studios and podcasts.
Phil Murphy, “Hired.” Donald Trump is unpopular throughout most of New Jersey, and Murphy is trying to bury his just-chosen Republican opponent by tying him to the ex-president. This clever spot (arguably, clever for 2016) portrays the GOP primary as a contest on “The Apprentice,” congratulating Republican Jack Ciattarelli for frequently going on the record to praise Trump's conservative judicial picks and economic policy. (“Well…” a narrator says over footage from the pandemic's worst days.)
New Jersey governor (Fairleigh-Dickinson, 803 registered voters)
Phil Murphy (D): 48% (-4 since May)
Jack Ciattarelli (R): 33% (+7)
There hasn't been a close race for governor of New Jersey since 2009, when Republican Chris Christie unseated Democrat John Corzine. Murphy has fallen from his pandemic-era popularity height, and began running ads even before the end of the Republican primary that nominated Ciattarelli over a collection of fringe candidates, and began hitting Ciattarelli shortly after. Most voters do not know the Republican's name; the pollster asked voters whether they'd back the “Republican nominee” if they couldn't recall who it was. Murphy could be taking a risk by raising his opponent's name ID at a time when simple partisan preference would boost the GOP candidate's numbers.
Do you approve or disapprove of the way Joe Biden is handling his job? (Selzer & Company, 807 Iowa adults)
Approve: 43% (-4 since March)
Disapprove: 52% (+8)
The president’s honeymoon is over, albeit in a state he lost by a similar margin to his current approval and favorable rating. (It’s similar, with just 45 percent of Iowans viewing Biden favorably.) Biden was never very popular in Iowa, his favorable rating dropping to the high 30s there during his time as vice president. But a sizable number of voters who gave him a chance in office have already bolted; by far, the most opposition is based on his immigration policy, with just 29 percent of voters saying they approve of how he has handled it. The Biden decision to increase resources to migrant processing and make asylum more straightforward are being processed in Republicans' terms: That rejecting Trump's approach amounted to opening the border.
In 2020, Democrats made no progress winning back Iowans who backed Barack Obama twice, then voted Republican after 2014. Why'd they pan fool's gold anyway, investing in Iowa's 2020 Senate race and dispatching Biden to campaign there? One reason was the same poll, Iowa's gold standard, finding voters just as unhappy with Trump at times as they are unhappy with Biden now. But there's a reason Iowa, where an 87-year old Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is still considering reelection, is not highlighted on Democrats' 2022 map.
In the states
The Republican State Legislative Committee has one major target this year: Flip the Virginia House of Delegates from blue to red, just two years after Democrats broke the GOP's decades-old majority. It has made a six-figure digital buy to target 13 Democrats in swing seats, with an ad warning that the party must not remain in total control of Richmond.
“They hiked taxes and weakened our small businesses,” a narrator says. “They kept our children locked out of the classroom. And their failures have made Virginia communities less safe.”
Although most punditry about Virginia's changing electorate has focused on the D.C. suburbs, the target list shows just how much the battle for control moved elsewhere. Only four of the 13 districts getting this ad are in Northern Virginia; most are around Richmond or Hampton Roads, where the GOP has been in more of a battle for the suburbs.
… 20 days until all ballots are ranked and counted in New York
… 35 days until the special election in Texas's 6th Congressional District
… 42 days until primaries in Ohio’s 11th and 15th Congressional Districts
… 133 days until primaries in Florida's 20th Congressional District