One week until the end of a bitterly contested mayoral primary, and a day before the race’s final debate, Kathryn Garcia and Maya D. Wiley both tried on Tuesday to establish themselves as voters’ best alternative to the race’s apparent leader, Eric Adams.
“I’ve been a public servant, and that means that I have been serving the people of New York City,” Ms. Garcia, a former sanitation commissioner, said in an interview at noon at her campaign office in Brooklyn. “And that’s what we need right now, not a politician who has curried favors.”
“New York wants a different kind of leadership,” Ms. Wiley, a former counsel to Mayor Bill de Blasio, said in front of the Brooklyn Public Library’s central location an hour later. “No tinkering around the edges of problems that we have failed to solve, but actually stepping up and being bold and transformational.”
The messages echoed the pitches the two candidates, both seeking to be the first woman elected mayor of New York, have been making to voters for months. But they have taken on a new urgency as time to court supporters is running out and polls show more city residents coalescing around Mr. Adams, the Brooklyn borough president.
A poll released on Monday by the Marist Institute for Public Opinion found that Mr. Adams had the support of 24 percent of likely primary voters. Behind him, nearly neck and neck, were Ms. Garcia, at 17 percent, and Ms. Wiley, at 15 percent. (The poll had a margin of error of 3.8 percent.)
At a campaign event, Mr. Adams exhibited the confidence of a front-runner heading into the final stretch.
“The more New Yorkers hear my story and my vision, they just seem to like me,” he said, speaking at a rally with Mexican American leaders in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park neighborhood.
But that same survey that showed strength for Mr. Adams also reflected gains for Ms. Garcia, whose campaign has surged after major newspaper endorsements, and for Ms. Wiley, who has endeavored to consolidate support from left-leaning voters as other candidates have stumbled.
It also showed some overlap in their bases: Among the voters who ranked Ms. Garcia as their first choice, Ms. Wiley was the most common second-choice pick. For Ms. Wiley’s supporters, the most popular No. 2 was Ms. Garcia.
Yet for weeks, as both candidates have tried to chip away at their rivals’ bases, they have largely stayed away from attacking — or even mentioning — each other.
They have also refrained from making statements of outright support for each other, even in an election using a ranked-choice system where being a voter’s second choice could theoretically help a candidate win.
As the campaign enters its final stretch, Ms. Garcia, one of the more moderate candidates in the primary field, has sought to woo voters across the broad political spectrum of New York’s Democrats.
At times, she has seemed to try to thread the needle between progressive voters and centrist ones on a range of issues, particularly public safety.
On Monday in Lower Manhattan, she told progressive voters — one of whom complained that she “comes across as a defender of the police” — that she would rein in police brutality and, if necessary, fire defiant police officials.
That afternoon, in southern Brooklyn, she took a slightly different tone with small-business owners clamoring for more police officers on patrol. “I’ve been very clear,” she said “Everyone needs to be safe and secure, regardless of where they live or the color of their skin. I lived through the ’70s and ’80s in New York, and I don’t want to go back.”
On Tuesday, Ms. Garcia sought to frame her pragmatic approach to city government — one that focuses on day-to-day operations over ideology — as a left-leaning stance. When asked about her stance on climate change, she said that “there is literally nothing more progressive than getting it done, the really hard work.”
She has frequently made personal appeals to voters through canvassing or small events. On Tuesday, she held a round-table discussion with young people about how to improve the city’s foster care system.
The issue is far from the center of the mayoral campaign, but it gave Ms. Garcia — who was adopted and whose sister was in foster care for seven years — a chance to connect with voters on an emotional level while highlighting her desire to cut through entrenched bureaucratic tangles.
“This is a very personal issue,” Ms. Garcia said. “But also, this is the type of thing where we know it’s not working. And there’s another way of thinking about it that works so much better.”
Elsewhere on the campaign trail, Ms. Wiley was again trying to unite progressives behind her, announcing a mutual endorsement with Crystal Hudson, a City Council candidate in central Brooklyn who is seeking to be the first out gay Black woman on the council.
“There is a real choice for New Yorkers on the ballot,” Ms. Wiley said. “We, in an historic crisis, have historic choices. And one of them is to make history by, in fact, voting for the most qualified to lead, in a historic crisis.”
Ms. Wiley focused on affordable housing, which has been a major issue in Ms. Hudson’s race. She reaffirmed her commitment to spending $2 billion to repair and expand public housing and to expanding housing subsidies to cover more New Yorkers.
“This isn’t a crisis,” Ms. Wiley said of the city’s housing crunch. “This is an impending catastrophe.”
Understand the N.Y.C. Mayoral Race
- Who’s Running for Mayor? There are more than a dozen people in the race to become New York City’s next mayor, and the primary will be held on June 22. Here’s a rundown of the candidates.
- Get to Know the Candidates: See how the leading candidates responded to a range of questions. And go deep on each’s background and experience: Eric Adams, Maya Wiley, Andrew Yang, Kathryn Garcia, Scott M. Stringer, Raymond J. McGuire, Dianne Morales and Shaun Donovan.
- What is Ranked-Choice Voting? New York City began using ranked-choice voting for primary elections this year, and voters will be able to list up to five candidates in order of preference. Confused? We can help.
Ms. Wiley also dismissed earlier comments by Ms. Garcia, who has sought to frame the race as a two-person contest between Mr. Adams and herself.
But she did not explicitly criticize either Ms. Garcia or Mr. Adams, saying instead that she was focusing on New Yorkers’ desire for a “different kind of leadership.”
Though Ms. Wiley and Ms. Garcia have both cast their ballots, neither has divulged her rankings.
Of the top five mayoral candidates, only Andrew Yang, whose support has slipped in recent weeks, has been willing to name his second choice: Ms. Garcia.
On Tuesday, Mr. Yang, who came in fourth in the Marist poll, reiterated that support, responding to a question about whether he would serve in a Garcia administration by saying, “I’d be excited to work with Kathryn in any capacity.”
Mr. Yang sounded upbeat while speaking to voters in Kew Gardens in Queens. He said he was looking forward to Wednesday’s debate, where he planned to focus on public safety, an issue that has dominated the last month of the race.
Mr. Adams, for his part, appeared to dismiss the value of the ranked-choice voting system, calling the process “complicated” and asserting that the city’s Board of Elections had failed to properly inform residents about it.
“You go to the average inner-city New Yorker, and you say, ‘What is ranked-choice voting?’ And they have no idea,” Mr. Adams said at his rally. “I’m concerned about that, but I want people to rank their candidates based on their choice, but the first thing I want them to rank is Eric Adams as their No. 1.”
Supporters of ranked-choice voting say that it gives voters more sway in a race’s overall outcome by allowing them to back a top pick but still voice their opinions on other candidates in the race.
Lurie Daniel Favors, the interim executive director of the Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College, criticized Mr. Adams’s comments, likening them to efforts around the country to question the integrity of elections.
“Ranked-choice voting has the potential to give Black voters more power at the ballot box by allowing them to select and rank candidates that address their concerns in order of preference,” Ms. Favors said. “Any attempts to frame ranked-choice voting as too complicated or to discourage voters from fully exercising their rights to vote are wrong and harmful to our community.”
Jeffery C. Mays and Emma G. Fitzsimmons contributed reporting.
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