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New York City Narrows The Democratic Field For Mayor, With Eric Adams Taking The Lead

Mayoral candidate Eric Adams mingles with supporters during his election night party, late Tuesday, June 22, in New York.
Kevin Hagen
Mayoral candidate Eric Adams mingles with supporters during his election night party, late Tuesday, June 22, in New York.

Updated June 23, 2021 at 12:10 PM ET

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams took the lead in the Democratic primary for New York City's mayoral race Tuesday, but it will still take weeks to produce an official winner. For now, Maya Wiley sits in second place, followed by Kathryn Garcia.

For the first time, New Yorkers are choosing their mayor in a ranked-choice system, with voters ranking their top five candidates in order of preference. A plurality of Democrats chose Adams as the front-runner, according to unofficial results from New York City's Board of Elections.

Adams received 31.7% of the vote Tuesday, with more than 253,000 voters selecting him as their top choice. But since no candidate earned more than 50% of first-choice votes from Democrats, counting will continue in weekly rounds.

At the end of each round, the last-place candidate is eliminated, and voters who chose that candidate will have their vote counted instead for their second choice. Officials said the elimination and redistribution process is expected to stretch well into July.

Because New York City leans Democratic, the primary winner is highly favored to take over Gracie Mansion after the general election.

The Republican primary was won outright by Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels crime prevention group, with nearly 37,000 votes, according to the elections board.

Adams leads on primary night

As results came in Tuesday night, Adams celebrated, basking in his expected lead.

"New York City said our first choice is Eric Adams," he told a roomful of supporters.

In a race that began in the midst of the pandemic, and ended as the city saw a spike in gun violence, the former police captain ran hard on a promise to reform policing while fighting crime.

"You don't know this. I know this. I'm going to keep my city safe," he said.

Wiley hopes to move up from second

Democratic mayoral candidate Maya Wiley, left, greets a voter during a campaign stop near a polling place in the West Village neighborhood of New York, Tuesday, June 22, 2021.
Mary Altaffer / AP
Democratic mayoral candidate Maya Wiley (left) greets a voter during a campaign stop Tuesday near a polling place in New York's West Village.

The next-closest finisher behind Adams is Wiley, a progressive Democrat who offered voters a vastly different approach to public safety. She has pledged to reallocate $1 billion of the police department's $6 billion budget.

"You must also be accountable to every one of us here, because this is not a false choice," she said.

She received 22% of the first-choice votes.

Wiley, an attorney who served as outgoing Mayor Bill de Blasio's counsel, found strong support in Brooklyn and Queens. Adams performed well in every borough except Manhattan, where Garcia dominated.

During the campaign, Wiley gained the endorsements of progressive Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortezand Jamaal Bowman of New York.

Garcia rounds out the race, and Andrew Yang concedes

Democrat mayoral candidate Kathryn Garcia talks with the media on New York's Upper West Side, Tuesday, June 22, 2021.
Richard Drew / AP
Democratic mayoral candidate Kathryn Garcia talks with the media Tuesday on New York's Upper West Side.

Garcia, the third-place-finisher, said the public and media shouldn't count her campaign out just yet.

Garcia received 19.5% of the vote Tuesday.

Since the final tallies will transfer votes to front-runners as last-place finishers get eliminated, she said she believes the race is still wide open.

"This is going to be about not only the ones but also about the twos and threes. And to be honest, we're not going to know more tonight than we know now," she said, referring to the ranked-choice system.

Now-former Democratic mayoral candidate Andrew Yang ended his campaign Tuesday night.
Mark Lennihan / AP
Democrat Andrew Yang has ended his mayoral campaign after his fourth-place finish. He conceded Tuesday night.

With 11.7% of votes, former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang will not be moving on to the next stage in his campaign.

Yang conceded after 11 p.m. Tuesday, saying he couldn't win the nomination with the numbers he had.

"Our city was in crisis," he said in a speech, "and we believed we could help."

How the numbers could shift

The big X-factor is the ranked-choice system, which will shake up the numbers in the coming weeks. New rounds of vote counting will be held each Tuesday until a candidate crosses the 50% threshold.

Wiley and Garcia face long odds in overcoming Adams' lead of roughly 10 percentage points. It remains to be seen what effect Garcia's last-minute alliance with Yang will bring. Yang urged his supporters to make Garcia their second pick.

Absentee and affidavit ballots have yet to be counted in the race, according to the elections board. As of Wednesday morning, the city had received nearly 87,000 Democratic absentee ballots, out of more than 200,000 that were distributed.

Those ballots are still coming in: The deadline for absentee votes to arrive is June 29 as long as they bear a postmark no later than election day.

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Jaclyn Diaz is a reporter on Newshub.
Brigid Bergin
Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.