The leading Democratic candidates for New York mayor spent the final day of the primary campaign Monday stoking racial and ethnic divisions. Black front-runner Eric Adams accused two rivals of trying to suppress the Black vote.
Mr. Adams accused Andrew Yang and top-tier mayoral candidate Kathryn Garcia of sending “the wrong signal” to Black voters by campaigning together — against him — on Juneteenth this weekend. The new federal holiday marks the date when the last slaves in the U.S. learned of their freedom in 1865.
“I think you send the wrong signal and the wrong message, and that is what how many of the African American, Hispanic candidates felt,” Mr. Adams, who hopes to become the city’s second Black mayor, said on CNN.
Asked whether he agreed with accusations that Mr. Yang, who is Asian American, and Ms. Garcia, who is White, were trying to suppress the Black vote, Mr. Adams replied, “African Americans are very clear on voter suppression. We know about a poll tax, we know about the fight that we’ve had historically, how you had to go through hurdles to vote. So if they feel based on their perception that it’s suppressed the vote, then I respect their feelings.”
Mr. Adams said this weekend that Mr. Yang and Ms. Garcia showed their alliance “while we were celebrating liberation and freedom from enslavement.”
“In a year with Black Lives Matters marches, when people talk about inequality, where people are talking about how do we lift up Black and brown people in the city as well as all New Yorkers, that was their symbol on June 19,” Mr. Adams told reporters. “So I have a problem with that.”
Mr. Yang said of Mr. Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, “The last thing New York City needs is a mayor who uses race-baiting anytime he is criticized.
“Imagine an administration that is led by someone who cuts corners and breaks rules and is constantly under investigation and then attacks whenever he’s criticized and then invokes race as the rationale for any criticism that’s directed toward him,” he told The New York Times on Monday.
Thirteen Democrats are vying in Tuesday’s ranked-choice primary to succeed two-term Mayor Bill de Blasio, also a Democrat.
In the Republican primary, restaurateur Fernando Mateo is running against Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels.
An Ipsos poll released Monday showed Mr. Adams as the first choice of 28%, followed by Mr. Yang with 20%, Ms. Garcia, a former sanitation commissioner, with 15%, and former City Hall lawyer Maya Wiley at 13%.
“The contest is far from over,” the pollster said. “There is significant opportunity for voters’ second, third, fourth, and fifth options to swing the race.”
The city’s new ranked-choice format could lead to several rounds of computerized runoffs before a candidate wins more than 50% of the vote. First, voters will be asked to choose their top five preferences.
New York‘s elections board will release a vote count Tuesday night based only on voters’ first choices, and only for those who voted in person. All city voters are allowed to vote by mail.
On June 29, the elections board will run its first ranked-choice analysis, again using only votes cast in person. On July 6, the board will conduct another round of ranked-choice analysis that includes all absentee ballots counted as of that date.
The rankings analysis will be run every subsequent Tuesday until a winner is declared.
Civil rights activist Ashley Sharpton, a daughter of the Rev. Al Sharpton, called the eleventh-hour alliance “a cynical attempt by Garcia and Yang to disenfranchise Black voters.”
“We didn’t march in the streets all summer last year and organize for generations just so that some rich businessman and bureaucrat who don’t relate to the masses can steal the election from us,” she said.
Rep. Gregory W. Meeks, New York Democrat and head of the Queens Democratic Party, said “this Garcia-Yang stunt reeks of desperation, and our community is too engaged to fall for this.”
Former state Comptroller H. Carl McCall, referring to Republican-led voting reform legislation in various states, said, “This is an attempt to bring the disgraceful national campaign of voter suppression to New York.”
Former New York Gov. David Paterson said the alliance “is an act of political chicanery and introduces a very disturbing dividing of the city’s electorate.”
Asked about those accusations as she campaigned with Mr. Yang this weekend, Ms. Garcia said, “I’m not even going to respond to them.” She asked Mr. Yang, “Do you want to respond to them as a person of color?”
“Not particularly,” Mr. Yang said. “I would tell Eric Adams I’ve been Asian my entire life.”
Mr. Yang has spoken about the anti-Asian sentiment that he said he and others have experienced during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“You can feel it on the streets of New York,” he said. “You can sense it. What started out as invisibility or a sense of foreignness has now become hatred, violence, assault, people feeling that we don’t belong in our own country or in our own streets.”
Ms. Wiley, who also is Black, said she disagrees that the alliance of Mr. Yang and Ms. Garcia is racist.
“I will never play the race card lightly unless I see racism, and I’m not calling this racism,” Ms. Wiley said.
In the Ipsos poll, New York voters ranked crime and security as their top concern.
Mr. Adams said the crime issue hit especially close to him last weekend when he was visiting a family whose children had come under gunfire from gang members. At the same moment, one of his campaign staffers was stabbed in an unrelated incident. He said the violence was “hopefully not” directed at the campaign.
Mr. Yang said New York is a city in crisis.
“Shootings so far this year are nearly double their levels in 2019,” he wrote Monday in the New York Daily News. “The unemployment rate is double the national average. And the city’s budget has gone up nearly 50% over the past decade without any noticeable improvement in how our city functions.”