Who's running for Mayor of New York City?

Really, who isn't?

For the first couple months of 2020, we’re running issues that introduce a group of races already in progress. This week was going to be all of the New York City races, but we had to cut this in half because there’s just too damn much going on, and we figured some detail was warranted for a city of 8 million. Next week will be all the other stuff. Comptroller, BPs, AGs, and the Council. We promise not to spend as much time on each candidate. Fields for NYC mayor are always large, but this is on another level. Believe it or not, we’ve culled the list down to just candidates that get media attention. We also ranked candidates on three dimensions: their ideology, their viability as a candidate, and their capacity for pure Machiavellian scheming.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams 

Machiavellian: 10/10

Ideology: 2/10

Viability: 10/10

Eric Adams has been working towards getting here for his entire career. He is probably the reason we included the “Machiavellian” dimension on this ranking. It was originally going to be “Evil”*, but most of the other candidates didn’t really warrant that. Adams was a cop for 22 years before even starting his political ventures. In his cop days he was mostly known for his time leading an association of Black officers, but even then his issues with department racism were indignations that Black officers were being treated like regular, non-police, people instead of the “homeowners” and “officers” they were. He made the jump to elected office in 2006, when his state senate district opened up, but he was elbows-deep in grimy NYC politics before that.

In a 1994 primary challenge against then-incumbent idiosyncratic sorta-leftist Major Owens, he ran from what appears to have been…a pro-Louis Farrakhan position? That’s weird, but much more shocking is that before that he was obviously a go-to guy for a punchy quote supporting or attacking certain politicians. One of them, offered in 1993, was that a Latino politician didn’t care about Latinos in the city because he was in an interracial marrage:

“He returns to his community when he needs votes. He should have returned there when looking for a wife.”

What? Seriously, give that one a moment to sink in. Eric Adams said a politician shouldn’t have married outside of his immediate community. And that’s not an idle thought in private, he went to the newspaper and made sure that quote was attached to his name.

Adams was working with Republican politicians in the 90s, he’s a self-proclaimed conservative, and he was a registered Republican until at least 2001. He eventually found his way to the Democrats, and that’s the party that his 2007 entry into the Senate was under. Considering that not soon after he was elected, the IDC broke off of the caucus and he was not a member, we can’t call him one of the worst Democrats in the Senate then, but he did stick by the absolute worst of them all: Hiram Monserrate. Monserrate was ejected from the Senate after a conviction for domestic violence. All but 8 Senators voted to eject, and Adams was one of those 8. A cop looking the other way at domestic violence from his colleagues? No way.

Adams was elected Brooklyn Borough President in 2013. Borough President is a largely useless position, but one that covers a significant portion of the city. The high visibility and lack of any real responsibilities make the office perfect for politicians looking to move up. About a year ago, the conventional wisdom was that there were 5 main mayoral contenders, and 3 were current or former BPs (one ended up not running). Since much of the job is just public statements, it’s hard to say where the BP role ends and his campaigning begins. To that end, his increasingly aggressive public posture is a sign of what interest groups he’s chasing and how he intends to govern.

Recently, Adams has said that people who have moved to New York City should leave and go back to their home states, because, as he put it, “New York City belongs to the people that were here”, and outsiders are not welcome, to hell with more than three centuries as perhaps THE hub of global migration. He stood by these comments after a backlash. Regarding a complaint that police were parking their cars in the middle of the street, he compared the complainant to a KKK member. He continues to classify himself as “extremely conservative” when it comes to criminal justice issues (“crime”). He attacked a LGBT public housing complex for seniors as “disruptive” and “not inclusive” because of who would be living there. He couldn’t have meant racially “not inclusive”, since the residents were over ¾ non-white, so his objection was just to the fact that queers would be there. And as for his mayoral campaign itself, he’s explicitly promised to run a dirty one

Ruthless, powerful, and beloved by a variety of financial interests, Eric Adams is a frontrunner, and, if you believe Yang’s polls, the leading non-Andrew Yang candidate. He certainly has the most money. But there’s a sense he should be doing better than he is. Adams has spent a decade burning bridges with plenty of powerful people, and—very unusually for an NYC mayoral race with a leading Black candidate whose political base is Black voters—most Black political leaders have steered clear of him. He’s been open about seeing Scott Stringer as his main threat, and about attempting to fuse together a coalition of Black voters and a hodgepodge of more moderate whites who would oppose Stringer for one reason or another. That’s probably the reason for his comments about wanting to expel new arrivals to the city. People associate them with the younger, whiter crowd that’s helped feed gentrification, and they’re much more likely to be drawn to Stringer than to him. He’s trying to connect with whoever the inverse of a Stringer voter may be. Support from Black voters is the cornerstone to his strategy, then, and his campaign will live or die by whether he’s able to consolidate them thoroughly enough.

Shaun Donovan

Machiavellian: 4/10

Ideology: 5/10

Viability: 7/10

Shaun Donovan is a resumé. An impressive resumé, for sure! He has private sector experience, ran the city’s housing department for a few years, was appointed to run HUD by Obama, and then was Obama’s budget director for a few years after that. It checks all the boxes: he’s been in the public and private sectors, has local and national government experience, and has worked in multiple departments on different issues. But we didn’t say he has a resumé, we said he is one. Donovan’s campaign has been one of the blandest and least engaging of any major candidate. It’s full of name drops, pictures with Obama, and practiced platitudes, but as far as actual hooks as a candidate go, or even notable supporters from the city, he comes up empty. 

That’s not to say he has no ideas. After all, the man is fond of mentioning how his education platform has 10,000 words. As of writing, the exact number is 9,634. His climate section has 5,805 words, his Economic Development section has 6,314, and his Aging platform has 8,316. The other 4 sections have about 3,000, but the point was already made with those 4. If you actually sit down and read all his proposals (we did and don’t recommend it), you get a sense of, more than anything, Michael Bloomberg, and not just because Donovan explicitly references building on his legacy.

This isn't to say that Donovan is the Bloomberg of the race. No, Bloomberg's path to success was his ludicrous self-funding and his ideological mixture of both quite conservative and performatively liberal positions that allowed a coalition of Republicans and upscale moderate liberals. Instead, what Donovan invokes is the image of the man. He's got a thousand proposals and a million little details, but he never has a desire to actually make any big changes. He spends more space on restaurant utensils than on fighting homelessness. He genuinely seems to want to be a manager rather than a mayor. Maybe that's why so much of his campaign is a resumé.

Kathryn Garcia

Machiavellian: 5/10

Ideology: 5/10

Viability: 5/10

Kathryn Garcia is competent. She is very competent. She has run things before, and she wants you to know that she is capable of running things. That’s not actually the worst pitch in the world when it comes to New York City, which is currently in a state of disarray owing to COVID occurring under the surprisingly incompetent second term of Bill de Blasio, who has seemed checked out of the day-to-day routines of governing since his decision to run for president (and even before that.) Garcia and de Blasio used to be on good terms; he appointed her head of the city’s Sanitation department in 2014, and interim chair of NYCHA in 2019. But she says she was inspired to run after de Blasio cut her department’s budget. It’s a believable rationale. She’d be far from the first New Yorker disillusioned by de Blasio these last few years.

Garcia’s tenure as head of Sanitation was marked by some early setbacks, but also by initiatives to reduce waste and litter. She displayed a willingness to rock the boat, just not too much. A particularly on-the-nose example of this is her desire to “green” the fleet by switching not to electric cars, but to a “cleaner” diesel blend. As NYCHA chair, she is best known for trying to wriggle out of the spotlight regarding questions about the agency's continued failure regarding lead abatement. 

Her campaign’s been an odd one. There have been weird singular moments, like when she touted per police reform credentials by saying she was “the only candidate with experience running a paramilitary force”. (Technically true! New York does, in fact, have a little Sanitation Cop agency.) But more than that, she’s been bobbing and weaving around letting herself be defined. She might defund the police, but she won’t cut the patrol force. She isn’t on board with new taxes, but clearly thinks we need new revenue. She’s trying to let people know what she can do, but is fighting to keep people from knowing what she wants to do. Hers is a campaign with most of the same issues as Donovan’s. She wants to manage, but she doesn’t want to bother with the politics part of politics, and political groups don’t seem to want to bother with her. She’s raising money, she’s going to just about every candidate forum, but she still has no high profile supporters or presence in the polls.

Raymond McGuire

Machiavellian: 7/10

Ideology: 1/10

Viability: 3/10

Ray McGuire is the Wall Street Rich Guy candidate. One or two of them pops up every election. McGuire is a Citigroup executive who entered the race after some encouragement from business groups. He’s since gotten some flak for his ties to Saudi Arabia. Look, we could talk at length about Ray McGuire, even though we don’t think he’s going to win. We just did it with Kathryn Garcia and Shaun Donovan. But, honestly, we think he’s boring. He’s a rich guy investment banker who’s planning on acting like a rich guy investment banker in office. Go ahead and imagine that candidate. You’re probably pretty close to reality. The only interesting thing about him is that he has Spike Lee’s support, somehow.

City Councilman Carlos Menchaca

Machiavellian: 6/10

Ideology: 7/10

Viability: 4/10

Carlos Menchaca is the power-seeking political operator that some activists think they can harness for good. Okay, “power-seeking political operator”, is a strong statement and potentially a little unfair. We probably wouldn’t be including it if we didn’t believe the rumor that he endorsed a nonviable candidate in a 2020 Assembly primary against damaged incumbent Félix Ortiz in order to spike DSA-backed challenger Marcela Mitaynes so that he could run against Ortiz in 2022. Menchaca is a rarity in New York politics: a canny political operator who loves playing the game, but who owes his career to activists and labor, and has not forgotten that.

Menchaca was elected to the City Council in 2013. A young, gay Mexican-American in a city which had never elected a Mexican-American before and which had rarely elected gay officials, Menchaca hit the pavement to beat an establishment-backed incumbent in an election cycle that was seen as a progressive change in direction for the city’s politics. Unlike most of the Democrats elected that year, who learned pretty quickly how to play nice with Bill de Blasio and the political establishment, Menchaca had no interest in that path, quickly earning himself powerful enemies. They, in particular Assemblyman Félix Ortiz, tried to unseat Menchaca in 2017, but he won reelection handily.

It was after that race that Menchaca really began to break away from his more quiet persona in his first term and into the firebreather that he is today. In 2018, he endorsed Cynthia Nixon for governor (one of the few elected officials to do so), embraced the Abolish ICE movement, and finished off the year by getting into a public fight with de Blasio over a trolley plan. But all of that pales in comparison to the defining moment of his career thus far: the Industry City rezoning.

Industry City is a privately owned complex in the city's largest manufacturing center, which lies in the Sunset Park neighborhood in Brooklyn, part of Menchaca’s district. Nearby, the once diverse, working class neighborhoods are in the beginning stages of gentrification, with upscale urban professionals moving it, inspiring many of the old manufacturing buildings to convert to newer office and retail space. Rents are soaring. In 2019, Industry City’s owners announced a massive renovation plan, adapted from an earlier pitch for Amazon’s HQ2, to add over a million square feet to the complex and build billions in retail space. They promised 20,000 new jobs, but had no real proof that they would materialize. Worse yet, even during their proof-of-concept phase, they were demonstrating that new jobs would not cover the cost of living nearby (average pay of just $17/hr), while simultaneously looking to build retail space that would further drive up that same cost of living.

There are many zoning and land use decisions which turn into lose-lose interest group brokerage that pit different housing-vulnerable groups against each other. But this wasn’t housing, it was retail. It was gentrification in exchange for McJobs. And Menchaca held the decision-making power, owing to the longstanding tradition of the City Council voting with the local Councilor on all zoning decisions. In March 2019, Menchaca first demanded a 6 month extension of the zoning review. Near the end of the period, Menchaca laid down a list of demands that would get him to say yes, most of it being commitments to put funds in the community. He was trying to turn this into a career-defining moment for himself: brokering the peace between developers and the community so that everyone would win. He really wanted this to work. Instead, he wasn’t even able to finish unveiling it because activists shouted him down at his own event. While Industry City developers were originally on his side, Menchaca was sounding more and more wary by December; finally, in July of 2020, he shocked city politics by announcing his full opposition, thereby killing the project, which had previously been seen as inevitable. For better or for worse, Menchaca had his career-defining moment, and it put him firmly on the side of the left in the public’s eye.

Menchaca bowed to pressure from activists and the left, and eventually made a decision that pissed off a lot of powerful people. That’s encouraging, if you’re the left in NYC. It means that he can be moved, unlike a lot of politicians who would have fought back instead of listening. But he’s not an ally, he didn’t get to the right position by himself, and he seems to still be bitter at the left that he had to make that choice at all. Menchaca entered the race late and has thus far declined to put forward any policy proposals. We know from the summer that he supports defunding the NYPD, and he has been one of only two candidates to continue that support during the mayoral campaign. But big chunks of what he actually wants to do as mayor are TBD. 

Menchaca is clearly hoping to harness the left’s energy in this election (he’s certainly not planning on winning the money race), but he’s also clearly in it for himself, and the reality is that as far as useful allies go, Scott Stringer is a lot more useful, and Dianne Morales is a lot more of an ally. Menchaca’s one natural base of support would be the city’s large Latino population, but he’s not on great terms with many Latino political leaders, and he’s not the only Latino running. He’s more than a little boxed in, in other words.

Dianne Morales

Machiavellian: 1/10

Ideology: 9/10

Viability: 3/10

Dianne Morales is the coolest candidate in the race. Morales has spent the last decade running a nonprofit, Phipps Neighborhoods, which works to alleviate and overcome poverty in her native South Bronx. In her longshot, self-assuredly outsidery campaign, she has staked out a variety of strikingly left-wing positions. She wants to cut the NYPD budget in half, cancel rent, end homelessness within 100 days, reduce the amount of car infrastructure in the city, institute a land value tax, remake education, and end school segregation through redistricting. Morales has some problems, of course. She has a weird hesitancy towards some of the more aggressive anti-car policies, for instance. Still, it seems obvious that no one is going to beat her when it comes to left-wing policies. 

Right now, she’s struggling to translate her popularity within activist communities into a broader popular support. NYC DSA will be staying out of the race, and other potentially impactful groups that she might be inclined to look for support in, such as the Working Families Party and Make the Road Action, have thus far not made endorsements. The first big endorsement she got was state Sen. Gustavo Rivera, who recommended ranking her #2 on the ballot, after Scott Stringer. But today, as in only a few hours ago, Morales unveiled an endorsement from freshman Assemblywoman Jessica González-Rojas, who unseated a Queens incumbent last year.

Paperboy Prince

Machiavellian: 1/10

Ideology: 6?/10

Viability: 0/10

Paperboy Prince is a local character. They're a rapper, a local minor celebrity, a regular at protests, and a natural in front of the cameras. They won’t win, but they’ll get media coverage along the way. Prince is an interesting character with a distinctive outfit, and a love of Yang in 2020. They may have some fun moments in the campaign, and honestly they've got a better perspective than plenty of the ghouls salivating at the chance to be in control.

City Comptroller Scott Stringer

Machiavellian: 4/10

Ideology: 7/10

Viability: 9/10

Scott Stringer is the progressive establishment choice. You probably wouldn’t guess that from Stringer’s early career. For instance, back in his early days in the Assembly (this would be the mid-90s), he was a supporter of now-disgraced ex-Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver. Sure, he was known as a liberal, supported taxing the wealthy and such, but he was also known to be part of an old-boy Upper West Side political network. He did hate Trump before it was cool, though.

Stringer has always wanted to move up in the world. He ran for Public Advocate after a few terms in the Assembly, and after losing that race, ran again for Manhattan Borough President in 2005, which he won with just over a quarter of the vote. Both times he was supported by labor unions and the Working Families Party. Borough President is a largely ceremonial role, but they do get listened to on zoning issues, and in his 8 years, Stringer developed a mixed but slightly pro-developer reputation. It's honestly a pretty encouraging pattern with him: his skepticism was mostly towards commercial developments, but he was usually a fan of upzoning for housing. That’s often a cause of gentrification, but we’re talking about like, Midtown Manhattan and SoHo. That horse left the stable a long time ago. He was also a fan of inclusionary zoning templates (essentially affordable housing standards).

Stringer initially ran for Mayor in 2013, but dropped out early on to run for Comptroller. His opponent in that race was disgraced former governor Eliot Spitzer. Stringer once again had support from labor and the WFP, and he won that race narrowly. His coalition in that race is not exactly what you want as a Democrat in New York City. He lost Black voters painfully, 2:1 or worse. While he kept it relatively close with Asian and Hispanic voters in most boroughs, he got blown out in the Bronx. He won because he universally received strong margins from white voters across the city. 

All in all, this is the record of a typical white Manhattan liberal. This could be Jerry Nadler’s (a mentor of Stringer’s) career path if things had gone a bit differently for him. But Stringer and de Blasio soon had a falling out, and in the last few years, Stringer has broken out of that mold and supported a variety of progressive and leftists in primaries: Yuh-Line Niou in 2016, multiple IDC challengers in 2018, Tiffany Cabán in 2019, Jamaal Bowman in 2020.

Stringer, then, is promising for the left. He’s won citywide once, he has a huge profile, he can raise a ton of money, and he wants to work with them. And yeah, okay, basically every big name progressive in the city was endorsed by him in their primary, so they owe him one. That endorsement list includes Reps. Jamaal Bowman, Adriano Espaillat, and Jerry Nadler; state Sens. Gustavo Rivera, Alessandra Biaggi, Jessica Ramos, and Julia Salazar; and a whole batch of Assembly and Council members. A notable name not on that list is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, whose race Stringer stayed out of.

Stringer’s campaign has attempted to toe the line of supporting progressive priorities without acting too scary about it. While Stringer was calling for a $1.1 billion cut to the police over the summer, he’s now calling for a less aggressive cut and raising the specter of returning to the high crime 1970s. His 25% affordable housing mandate for all new development is a strong stance against gentrification, but not the massive public housing investment it could be. He wants to invest in public transit and cut fares, but the prospect of a fare-free MTA is still too much for him.

Loree Sutton

Machiavellian: 4/10

Ideology: 2/10

Viability: 2/10

Loree Sutton is running a flop campaign in the moderate lane. It’s honestly unclear what sort of path she saw for herself to begin with. A military veteran who ran the city’s Veterans department for 3 years, and is now seeking to become the first woman Mayor of NYC—that’s something of a hook, we suppose, but when you compare that to the actual campaign she’s running, where she’s tweeting about the dangers of the woke, “anti-racist agenda”, and putting out policy statements like “We can move forward to modernize our understanding of how marijuana may be legalized contingent upon ensuring necessary public health and safety provisions”, the question becomes “who even is her audience?” Making matters worse is that she’s burned through all of her campaign money already. This has all the markings of a campaign which officially ends during signature gathering, but who knows, maybe she’ll stick it out.

Maya Wiley

Machiavellian: 3/10

Ideology: 6/10

Viability: 6/10

Maya Wiley is hoping this is the moment for outsiders and civil rights advocates. Wiley was a high-ranking NAACP civil rights lawyer until 2014, who then became Counsel to the Mayor’s office under Bill de Blasio, a position she held until transferring to the Civilian Complaint Review Board in 2016, and then finally moved to her current position as a full-time professor in 2017. She has also worked as a legal analyst on cable news since 2018. Before running for Mayor, she had advocated for universal broadband in the city, scrapping an elementary school gifted program that was deeply segregated by race, and, uh, voting for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 primaries.

In this race, Wiley considers herself an “unapologetic progressive”, and even has a few endorsements that might back that up, state Sen. Michael Gianaris being the most prominent example. Her policies, on the other hand, are mixed. She’s often vague about specific plans, relying instead on her central theme of community-guided governance. A good example is policing. She’s come out in support of taking traffic enforcement away from the NYPD, but she’s not giving much in the way of specific changes to the department, and even though she does think their budget is too large, she won’t commit to cutting anything. Her three actually-fleshed-out plans so far are on gun control (good, if standard for Democrats), a jobs corp (probably the most encouraging proposal of hers, even if it’s not especially ambitious), and preventing evictions. That last one is where she really pales in comparison to other progressive candidates. Her rent relief program is landlord-based and comes with few guarantees. Her rehousing plan is so vague as to be nonexistent, aside from waiving application fees for apartment-seekers.

Wiley’s path to the nomination probably involves doing well with Black voters. She’s one of four Black candidates. Two are moderates, and unusually aggressively moderate ones at that: Ray McGuire is a Citibank executive, and Eric Adams is a conservative ex-Republican cop who’s managed to annoy everyone, even the political leaders you’d expect him to get along with, enough that they hold him at arm's length. Meanwhile, Dianne Morales’s more vocal left-wing politics are going to get her a total cold shoulder from the Black establishment. Wiley could potentially build from there to find other liberals and progressives in the city who might see her civil rights background as more important to the moment than the government experience of Scott Stringer. Unlike some other candidates whose paths are far more theoretical than anything, Wiley does have some endorsements, and is registering in polls.

Andrew Yang

Machiavellian: 2/10

Ideology: 3ish/10

Viability: 10/10

Andrew Yang is someone you already know. Yang was doing something or other in the startup world, became a millionaire, and ran for president in 2020. That campaign began as a Reddit meme before making the big time, but only barely. Yang got 5% of the vote in Iowa and 3% of the vote in New Hampshire before dropping out of the race and beginning a tenure on CNN. Despite his paltry showing in the actual voting, Yang cultivated an online following with a frightening intensity and propensity for evangelism that’s comparable really only to Ron Paul’s followers in 2008 and 2012. Yang is obviously a far cry from Paul, but he displayed a surprisingly reactionary streak.

Among Yang’s early proposals were

  • a pledge to fire 15%-20% of the federal workforce and offload their workload onto whoever was left (he eventually stopped using specific numbers)

  • A typical Republian tort reform plan sold on their same conservative rhetoric

  • A college affordability program which did not attempt to actually reduce the price of college

  • A staggering 18 year wait time for undocumented citizens to get citizenship (he backed off this one at some point)

  • Finding a way to “drastically decrease the number of illegal entries” (he later stopped using this language)

  • A whole bunch of nonsense about solving societal problems by building a better app

  • A mandate to detain victims of overdoses for 3 days as punishment for seeking medical help (of course he didn’t phrase it as a punishment, but guess how addicts who are ODing and deciding whether to seek treatment will take it)

To his credit, Yang eventually cut the most harmful parts of his platform, but the fact that these were his initial instincts does not say good things about his governing philosophy. Yang was often billed as progressive, owing to the most unique aspect of his campaign: a universal basic income proposal. There is  a lot to like about UBI in concept; however, the actual proposal matters a lot. While progressive proponents of UBI see it as additional money for everyone, libertarians such as Milton Friedman have proposed it as a replacement for the existing welfare state, and Yang’s plan took just as much from one perspective as the other. Not helping things was Yang’s stingy view towards the actual welfare state, including a healthcare plan so different from the Medicare for All title he gave it that you could credibly call it the most conservative in the field. But enough about his presidential run. He was running on a bad platform—that’s been established by this point. How’s his mayoral platform? 

Also bad.

Let’s mix it up a bit and start with the good. Yang is no longer proposing a UBI program, instead replacing it with direct cash assistance of about $2,000 per year to the neediest 500,000 New Yorkers. So, welfare, more or less. Yang claims this would stack with housing assistance, but that’s really up to the federal government. Even so, a welfare program is a good idea. His idea for a public bank is good in spirit, even if Morales already has one, and hers has a much better enforcement mechanism. Okay, that’s it for the praise.

Yang doesn’t just reject the Defund the Police movement, he’s calling for more cops on the street. He’s come out swinging against the BDS movement so vigorously that he compared it to Nazism, and then doubled down a few days later. (This makes him the only candidate we know of who is trying to end both BDS and circumcision.) He desperately wants to reopen schools despite the infection risk. His plan to tackle high childcare costs is to deregulate the industry. He opposes moving Manhattan—one of the most urbanized places on the entire planet—to a car-free baseline. He’s also unveiled a Green New Deal for NYCHA, apparently unaware that there was already a Green New Deal for Public Housing proposed by NYC Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and with no indication he actually consulted with NYCHA residents on it. He wants the city to develop social media influencer houses. He’s staffing up from Michael Bloomberg’s campaign and the NYPD union’s PR firm.

Yang’s campaign has been extremely weird. He parachuted in late, and has been careening from one strange event/controversy to another. He was the only candidate to have a mostly in-person campaign schedule, and then got COVID a few weeks later. He started requiring NDAs from campaign volunteers. Reports of sexism from his presidential campaign came out. He told a reporter that he had to live in the suburbs for the pandemic, since “can you imagine?” trying to work in a 2 bedroom apartment with kids at home. He has apparently never voted in a mayoral election before. He may or may not know what a bodega is.

And yet, despite all that, he might be the frontrunner. Yang has some local support from elected officials: Assemblyman Ron Kim, Councilmember Margaret Chin, and, weirdly enough, freshman Congressman Ritchie Torres, who is helping run his campaign. Yang’s odd campaign thus far has been driven much more by personality than policy. He has extremely high name recognition, and could wind up as a lot of voters’ 2nd or 3rd choice. Plus, he has a large donor base from his presidential campaign. 

The money race has some stark disparities: Eric Adams has raised about $7.4 million, and Scott Stringer about $6.6 million. While they both raised over $3 million from private donors, the majority of the money for both of them has come from the city’s matching fund program. Ray McGuire is the only other candidate in that tier, bringing in $4.9 million, owing to his Wall Street connections. Shaun Donovan pulled in $1.6 million, and below him you have the candidates who are hard up for cash: Maya Wiley at $721K, Dianne Morales at $336K, Kathryn Garcia at $305K, and Carlos Menchaca at $63K. Loree Sutton raised $193K, but she only has $398 of it left. Yang entered after the last filing date.

Polling has been thin on the ground in this race so far. There's only been one recent poll of this race that accounts for RCV: a Yang internal from January. Yang leads in the first round, with 25% to Adams’s 17%, Stringer’s 12%, and Wiley’s 8%. No one else has above 1%. He eventually wins the final round against Eric Adams 61% to 39%. On one hand, choosing between Yang and Adams is a frightening prospect, but it’s important to remember that it’s early. 32% of the respondents in this survey didn’t pick a candidate, and almost half didn’t rank anyone after their first choice. Most candidates didn’t have majority name recognition. The race will change between now and June, guaranteed.

*inspired by this tweet

LA-02/OH-11 specials, Virginia, and New Jersey

  • The Working Families Party endorsed Nina Turner in the OH-11 special election. Turner already has a collection of national endorsements, and while this one might seem like one to throw on the pile, it is a more important development than it might look. Turner was an important member of the Bernie Sanders campaign, and so far all her national endorsements are from Bernie-world, either explicitly (the man himself) or more in terms of reputation (Justice Democrats). It was possible (though inaccurate) to construe those endorsements as favors for a friend/ally. But the Working Families Party endorsed Warren in 2020, and Sanders-world has clashed with WFP on occasion. This unambiguously isn’t about the presidential campaign, it’s about national progressives coalescing behind Turner. The endorsement of Congressman Andy Levin, of the Detroit suburbs, signals something similar.

  • Also in OH-11, Shontel Brown has picked up the support of Akron mayor Daniel Horrigan. It was never expected that Horrigan might support Turner—this is a man who campaigned for Bloomberg in the presidential race—but the fact that he’s getting in at all is a strong signal that Akron won’t be fielding its own candidate. If Daniel Horrigan is backing a Cleveland candidate, it probably means he thinks House Minority Leader Emilia Sykes won’t be running. As for the endorsement itself, it’s hard to say how much value it actually has. While Akron’s population is over 200,000, most of it isn’t in OH-11. In fact, in the 2020 Democratic primary, there were 77,796 voters in OH-11, and 6,638 (8.5%) were from Akron. And Horrigan himself was very much not the choice of that part of Akron the last time he had a serious primary. She also got the endorsement of former NBA player and current mayor of suburban Warrensville Heights, Brad Sellers.

  • In yet more OH-11 news, former State Rep. John Barnes Jr. has officially entered the race. In our initial overview of the race, we called him “the worst name floated so far”. Paradoxically, his entry is probably good news since his base was mostly the traditional Cleveland establishment vote, which would come much more from Brown than from Turner.

  • Troy Carter, frontrunner in the LA-02 special electionwas endorsed by both the AFL-CIO, and Congressman Ro Khanna, in what is merely Khanna’s latest attempt to weaponize endorsements into a tool of pure disorientation. Democracy For America’s choice to get behind Karen Carter Peterson this week made significantly more sense.

  • Campaign finance reports are in for both LA-02 and OH-11. It’s important to remember that these only cover the weeks of 2020 that each candidate was in the race for.

    • In LA-02, Troy Carter leads Karen Carter Peterson with $405,000 in 8 weeks, to her $301,000 in 6. Notable names that showed up on Carter Peterson’s filing include Reps. Bonnie Watson Coleman, Lois Frankel, and Cheri Bustos; ex-Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, a former Secretary of the DNC; outgoing DNC Chair Tom Perez; and the chairs of six state Democratic parties. Gary Chambers lagged the pack with $106,000 in 4 weeks, but that’s pretty good for an outsider who’s never held office before and it’s an underestimation of his total fundraising strength, because we know from what the campaign has made public that he raised more in January than he did in December.

    • In OH-11, Nina Turner absolutely blew away the field, raising $643,000 in just three weeks. In that same period of time, Shontel Brown raised $43,000, and Jeff Johnson pulled in only $5,700 ($300 of which was from himself). Turner raised a lot of money owing to her national profile—this isn’t news to us. She hit the million-dollar mark last week. But the extent to which is currently lapping the field in fundraising is astounding. Shontel Brown and Jeff Jackson might actually be trying to pull this off entirely through machines and traditional political networks.

  • In CA-SD-30, a special election has been called to fill the vacancy left by Holly Mitchell’s election to the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors, and the overwhelming favorite is Assemblywoman Sydney Kamlager-Dove, who’s just terrible on every hot-button issue in LA politics. She’s a staunch defender of the LAPD, an opponent of just about any new housing, an opponent of just about any protections for tenants, and...yeah, you get the picture. But she’s facing Daniel Wayne Lee, a city councilor in Culver City, and Lee recently secured the backing of the Los Angeles DSA. LA DSA doesn’t have the same reputation as an electoral behemoth as its counterparts in, for example, Chicago, New York, or Pittsburgh, but it did notch its highest-profile win yet in November, when it helped urban planner Nithya Raman unseat Los Angeles City Councilor David Ryu. Ryu was the first councilor to lose reelection in the city since former state assembly speaker and future mayor Antonio Villaraigosa unseated Councilman Nick Pacheco in 2003. This special election allows LA DSA to show its strength, but it’s a daunting task: California’s state senate is absurdly tiny for a state of its size, so each of the 40 state senate districts is home to nearly a million people. (For context, California has 53 seats in the US House of Representatives.) A victory by Kamlager-Dove would come as no surprise, but win or lose, Lee’s performance could serve as a demonstration of the left’s strength in Los Angeles. (And, should Kamlager-Dove win, that would trigger a special election for her Assembly seat, which Lee could run for.)

  • The special election for NYC-Council District 24 went quite badly. Ex-Councilman James Gennaro received just under 60% of the in-person vote, while Bernie and WFP-endorsed Moumita Ahmed took about 16%. There’s no real way to spin this into a good result, but it is less disastrous than it might appear. For one, the absentee ballots should shrink that gap some. For another, Moumita led all the other South Asian candidates and came in second. If Gennaro had come under 50%, there’s a good chance we’d have found that the other candidates’ voters’ had ranked other South Asian candidates before the white machine candidate, meaning she’s the mostly likely to make it to the final round of the non-Gennaro candidates. If there’s any positive news, then, it’s that this result doesn’t spell certain doom for the regular primary election in a few months. The number of votes cast in that election could be double this one, and that’s with Republicans taken out of the voter pool. But this race should still teach us that the Queens machine isn’t dead. It still can deliver votes under the right circumstances.

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