A slew of progressive lawmakers, unions, and the Working Families Party pulled their support from mayoral candidate Scott Stringer late Friday afternoon, leaving his mayoral prospects in peril in the wake of allegations that he sexually assaulted and harassed a campaign volunteer two decades ago.
In a cascade of tweets and statements, Representative Jamal Bowman, state Senators Alessandra Biaggi, Julia Salazar, and Gustavo Rivera, and Assembly Members Yuh-Line Niou and Catalina Cruz said they withdrew their support.
We are rescinding our endorsements of Scott Stringer’s mayoral campaign. We have separate statements forthcoming. Thank you for those who have reached out with kindness. pic.twitter.com/8d8ScXuWYu
— Yuh-Line Niou (@yuhline) April 30, 2021
Taken together, these elected officials were among the youngest, highest profile supporters of Stringer’s campaign, who had bolstered his run for mayor with their progressive bonafides. They have also been among the most vocal critics calling for Governor Andrew Cuomo’s resignation over sexual misconduct allegations from a number of women.
The withdrawal by the WFP, which encompases multiple unions and community-based organizations and had announced their support just over two weeks ago, was another massive blow for Stringer’s candidacy.
“For years, New York’s politics have been dominated by a culture of sexual harassment,” said Sochie Nnaemeka, the New York State director of the Working Families Party. “We are deeply committed to building a city and state where all New Yorkers are safe from sexual misconduct, and survivors are supported in speaking out.”
The WFP said it would continue to back the two other candidates they’d previously endorsed, Dianne Morales and Maya Wiley, Nnaemeka said.
A person who attended the meeting discussing the withdrawal said WFP members were bothered both by the allegations against Stringer and also how he chose to respond to them. The person, whose identity is being withheld by Gothamist/WNYC because they were not authorized to speak on behalf of their organization, said the decision came down living with “our values with our friends and our foes.”
Nnaemeka reiterated the member’s stance in a public statement saying that Stringer “failed to acknowledge and consider his responsibility,” after Kim came forward.
It was the stunning culmination of a week that started at a high point for Stringer, the New York City comptroller. He’d received the backing of the United Federation of Teachers union and launched two television spots. By week’s end the campaign was in tatters, his progressive support gutted. Despite that, by Friday afternoon, Stringer seemed determined to soldier on.
“I understand that this is a difficult moment for my supporters, and I know that some of them will feel compelled to withdraw their endorsement of my candidacy,” Stringer said in a statement shortly before his high-profile supporters withdrew their endorsement. “I’ve received a lot of support on campaign stops over the last two days, and I’m going to be campaigning in every neighborhood, in every borough for the next two months. I look forward to seeing my opponents on the campaign trail and at the debates.”
The UFT, however, said it maintains support for Stringer and has not rescinded its endorsement.
The turmoil began Tuesday when Kim came forward with an allegation that Stringer had groped her under her pants, forcibly kissed her, and pressured her for sex when she was a volunteer on his campaign for public advocate in 2001. Later, Kim said, Stringer had promised her a district leader position if she could prove her loyalty.
Our statement regarding the allegations against Scott Stringer.
Many people are reaching out to me about this. Beyond my complete support for Jean Kim & her choice to speak out, I believe the right thing to do is to allow her (or those who she specifically asks) to speak. pic.twitter.com/Syi7vpjfoc
— Julia Salazar (@JuliaCarmel__) April 28, 2021
Stringer immediately came out on the offense, holding a press conference Wednesday afternoon in which he said the two had a “light” consensual relationship over the course of several months, while he was dating another woman. Kim denies any part of the advances were consensual.
When asked about the allegations at a mayoral forum Thursday night, Stringer tried to strike a middle ground.
“Let me say that I believe women,” Stringer said. “Making sure that all women come forward tell their stories without an assumption that they’re lying and I respect that and I agree with that, even when it isn’t convenient for me.”
He added, “but the truth cannot be collateral damage and the truth is I did not do anything I’m accused of.”
Stringer’s campaign also provided petitions to Gothamist/WNYC that showed Kim had collected 56 signatures for a slate of candidates that included Esther Yang, Andrew Yang, state Senator Brad Hoylman, and Julie Menin. Her attorney, Patricia Pastor, said Kim collected signatures on behalf of Esther Yang, a friend and neighbor who is running for district leader, unrelated to Andrew Yang.
“To come out and say that she’s working for the Yang campaign because she collected 30 signatures for Esther Yang and Andrew’s name was on there, he’s gaslighting to the umpth degree,” Pastor said. “I’m used to this crap because I represent sexual assault survivors all the time.”