But the question that will dominate the coming process is much simpler: Can Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who raced out to a lead after an initial count of early and primary day in-person voting, hold on to his advantage?
Adams, a retired captain in the New York Police Department, came out to chants of “the champ is here” – Muhammad Ali’s famous boast, sampled in a Jadakiss song – at his headquarters in Brooklyn late Tuesday and, after acknowledging the ranked-choice process to come, spoke as if the race was over.
“We know that this is going to be layers, this is the first early voting count – we know that. We know there’s going to be twos and threes and fours – we know that,” Adams said. “But there’s something else we know. That New York City said, ‘Our first choice is Eric Adams.’ “
The claim, though likely to be true, was premature. The city has yet to count absentee ballots, a process that is scheduled to begin on June 28.
The Democratic mayoral nominee is expected to be determined by mid-July and, with Republicans barely putting up a fight, is heavily favored to win the general election in November. The winner will be charged with guiding the city into a new era, up and out from the devastation of the coronavirus pandemic. But that rebuilding job will be complicated by a spike in crime intertwined with the trauma and lost opportunities of Covid-19. The demands for an equitable economic recovery, along with public safety free from police abuse will present the new mayor with a series of challenges unlike any in a generation.
Before the general election can begin, Adams will hope – and he clearly expects – to maintain his early lead over former sanitation commissioner Kathryn Garcia and civil rights attorney Maya Wiley, his two closest competitors in the initial vote preferences.
Those results could change once absentee ballots are included and the ranked-choice tabulation is run, a point Garcia stressed in her own election night remarks.
“This is going to be a ranked choice election,” Garcia said. “This is not just about the ones. It’s going to be about the twos and threes.”
Wiley sounded a similar note – a mix of caution and hope.
“It is simply fact that 50% of the votes are about to be recalculated,” she said
While Garcia and Wiley hope that they can add enough to their tallies as the ranked-choice process thins the field and reallocates support from the lowest vote-getters, former 2020 presidential candidate Andrew Yang said on Tuesday that he is ready to move on.
“I am not going to be the mayor of New York City based on the numbers coming in tonight,” Yang told supporters, conceding the race and ending a campaign that, for a brief period in its early stages, dominated a race that had not yet been overtaken by voters’ anxieties over a rise in violent crime.
It was that pivot, as the city’s vaccination rates went up and its pandemic anxieties began to diminish, that cleared the way for Adams to surge. In his speech in Brooklyn, Adams – who criticized Yang in increasingly personal terms as the race drew on – offered a lecture to the media wrapped in one last jab at his rival.
“My advice to the younger reporters is that Twitter is not academic research,” Adams said. “What some candidates misunderstood is that social media does not pick a candidate. People on social security pick a candidate.”
The people have indeed spoken, but what exactly they have said remains to be seen. And it’s going to take a while to find out.
Since no candidate will win a majority of the first-choice votes, tabulation will continue in rounds. The candidate with the fewest votes after the initial count will be eliminated and all ballots for that candidate will be reallocated to the next highest-ranked candidate selected. That process will continue with the remaining candidates until two are left with the winner determined by who has the most votes in that final round.
New York City’s Board of Elections plans to release the first set of results from this ranked-choice voting process on June 29, but those results will only include votes from early in-person and election day voters, not absentee ballots.
The board will release the results of the ranked-choice voting process again on July 6, this time including as many absentee ballots as they’ve been able to process. They’ll report results again every Tuesday until all the ballots have been counted.
Also on Tuesday, CNN projected that Curtis Sliwa would win the Republican mayoral nomination in his party’s primary, beating Fernando Mateo. The activist and founder of Guardian Angels will take on the winner of the Democratic primary in November’s general election for mayor.