New York (CNN)The race to become New York City’s 110th mayor began in a pandemic-enforced bubble, with the campaign playing out in drab Zoom forums, on social media and through the press, where email statements took the place of live exhortations to swells of supporters.
But with the city now open as vaccination totals climb and infection rates plummet, the final scenes of the Democratic mayoral primary are unfolding out in the open, on hot city streets, as the candidates hustle to broaden their support — and narrow the appeal of their rivals — as early voting ends and Tuesday’s ranked-choice primary election nears.
The next mayor will inherit a city decimated by Covid-19, which has killed more than 30,000 New Yorkers and leveled industries, particularly those relied upon for economic survival in already marginalized communities. The rebuilding process, which is already being buffeted by fiercely competing interests, comes amid a surge in violent crime, an issue that has gripped the campaign over the last few months. The shifting and diverse priorities of this vast electorate have only added to the volatility of the primary, an open and often chaotic scrum which attracted more than a dozen candidates.
Meanwhile, the self-interested niceties that some promised would follow the introduction of ranked-choice voting, now making its debut in New York, never materialized. And the top tier of candidates — Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who is widely perceived as the frontrunner; civil rights lawyer and one-time counsel to Mayor Bill de Blasio, Maya Wiley; former presidential candidate Andrew Yang; and the seasoned veteran of city government, former Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia — have shown little interest in pivoting, at the last, to a loftier brand of politics.
The new system, though, provided an opportunity for what appeared to be an eleventh-hour gambit by Yang and Garcia.
In twin press releases on Friday night, their campaigns announced that they would stump together on Saturday. The move followed months of speculation over a potential cross-endorsement.
In the end, they did not quite deliver.
Yang at events in Queens and Manhattan urged his supporters to rank Garcia second on their ballots. Garcia, though, stopped short of returning the favor, saying repeatedly that she would not encourage her backers to rank Yang — or anyone else. Asked what message voters should take away from seeing her and Yang on the stump together, Garcia demurred.
“Let me be very clear: I am not co-endorsing,” Garcia said. “We are campaigning together, we are promoting ranked-choice voting. I certainly do not agree with everything that Andrew has said, and I’m absolutely sure he has not agreed with everything that I have, but we want to make sure that people get out to vote.”
Moments earlier, as he had hours before, Yang complimented Garcia and went a step further, calling on his voters to make her their second choice.
“Anyone who’s been paying any attention to this race knows that I am a huge Kathryn Garcia admirer and fan,” Yang said. “I would urge anyone who is supporting me as their first choice, please do have Kathryn Garcia on your ballot.”
Yang, who pivoted over the course of the race from his happy warrior message to a harder focus on public safety, floated the potential of a cross-endorsement for weeks and has often spoken of Garcia in glowing terms. She has been more circumspect, if not outright dismissive of Yang’s praise, and recently brushed off questions about the possibility of teaming up with him.
“I am all about running my race,” Garcia told reporters on Wednesday in the West Village. “As I’ve said over and over again: If I had a strong number two, I wouldn’t be doing this.”
On Thursday in the Bronx, Yang, who voted early, did not reveal who made his ballot. (He did allow, to no one’s surprise, that Adams, with whom he has repeatedly clashed, did not make the cut. Voters are allowed to rank five candidates; 13 are running in this year’s Democratic primary.)
The Adams campaign did not initially comment on the potential Garcia-Yang pact, but Adams spokesman and adviser Evan Thies retweeted a damning response late Friday from Ashley Sharpton, daughter of the Rev. Al Sharpton, and an Adams supporter.
“This is a cynical attempt by Garcia & Yang to disenfranchise Black voters,” Sharpton wrote of their expected cross-endorsement. “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. Disgusting.”
When a reporter relayed criticism from Adams, who suggested that the pair was trying to prevent “a person of color” from
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