Eric Adams has formally won the backing of Rep. Adriano Espaillat, an influential Dominican-American congressman who could help the mayoral candidate win over a crucial bloc of Latino voters with only four weeks left to go until Primary Day.
Standing in the blistering heat at Plaza de la Americas in Washington Heights, Espaillat on Sunday argued that New York City needed a “blue-collar mayor.” He hailed Adams, the Brooklyn Borough President who grew up in poverty in Queens, as someone whose interests were aligned with his constituents in the Bronx and Upper Manhattan, who were hit especially hard by the pandemic.
“The plight of working class New Yorkers is with high rent, the high cost of food, a dilapidating public school system, public safety issues,” Espaillat said, surrounded by other elected officials including state Assemblywoman Carmen de la Rosa and City Councilmembers Diana Ayala and Ydanis Rodriguez.
The next mayor, he added, needs to be someone “from our neighborhoods” to address those challenges.
“We think he’s the one,” he said of Adams.
In addition to Washington Heights, Espaillat’s district includes Harlem, Inwood and western portions of the Bronx, neighborhoods that Espaillat and others said represented an important coalition in the upcoming election.
Latino voters make up about 20% of Democratic primary electorate and could potentially be an important group of swing voters. But prominent Latino elected officials have split their endorsements. Representative Ritchie Torres of the Bronx, who identifies as Afro-Latino, has endorsed Andrew Yang, while Representative Nydia Velázquez from Brooklyn, who is the first Puerto Rican Congresswoman, is supporting Maya Wiley.
Sources: Rep. Adriano Espaillat will endorse Eric Adams for mayor tomorrow. @EspaillatNY rescinded his endorsement of Scott Stringer three weeks ago following the allegation of sexual misconduct in 2001.
— Jeff Coltin (@JCColtin) May 22, 2021
Espaillat had formerly endorsed City Comptroller Scott Stringer, but rescinded his support along with a flank of progressive elected leaders after a former campaign volunteer came forward with an allegation of sexual assault that she said occurred two decades ago.
On Sunday, the congressman said he would not “bad mouth” Stringer but that he felt the accusations posed a distraction in the race. He said he had examined the platforms of several of the candidates before deciding on Adams.
During questions with reporters, Espaillat also revealed that he plans to announce his second choice next week, a sign that the congressman plans to deploy his full political capital under the city’s new ranked-choice voting system.
For the first time, New York City primary voters can rank up to five candidates in order of preference.
“I will exercise that right,” Espaillat said, adding that he did not want to take away attention from Adams. “Right now, today on Sunday, my number one choice is Eric.”
Asked about his endorsement shift from a progressive candidate to a more moderate one, Espaillat defended his choice. He said he viewed Adams as progressive and cited the latter’s efforts on police reform.
He also challenged voters to examine his own record, saying that he was more progressive than Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, who has often been credited with pushing her party to the left. He said he was among the first group of New York’s Congressional delegation to call for the impeachment of President Donald Trump following the Capitol riots.
. @RepEspaillat touts his progressive record, saying he thinks he’s left of AOC. He says he’s done the homework too. “I read Das Kapital!” He adds that he thinks Eric Adams is a progressive. pic.twitter.com/PkBkGE00Zs
— Elizabeth Kim (@lizkimtweets) May 23, 2021
Several candidates, including Dianne Morales, Yang, and Wiley, have intensified their outreach to Latinos. On Saturday, a NY1 reporter videotaped Morales reminding a voter in Spanish that she is the only Latina in the race and not to be confused by Kathryn Garcia’s surname. Garcia’s ex-husband is Puerto Rican, but she herself is not Latina.
On the Lower East Side, mayoral candidate @Dianne4NYC campaigning and reminding Latino voters like this one that she’s the only Latina in the race, not to get confused with the other Spanish last name on the ballot – @KGforNYC’s. pic.twitter.com/1s5lxleWXH
— Juan Manuel Benítez (@JuanMaBenitez) May 22, 2021
Espaillat suggested that the candidates had not been doing enough to appeal to Hispanic voters, saying he did not hear them do so during the first official debate two weeks ago.
In accepting the endorsement, Adams said he had long coveted the congressman’s backing, dating back to when they were both state senators. Adams joked that he had been praying for Espaillat’s endorsement.
He said he was not unhappy that Espaillat had initially chosen Stringer.
“As long as I was in his orbit, I was happy with that, because he’s a person I respect,” he said.
With the race in its final month, Adams has shown signs of surging, with recent polls showing him slightly ahead of Yang.
Still, he portrayed himself as a dark horse in the race.
“No one expected me to be here. No one expected me to put the operation together. No one expected me to raise the money or out-raise the entire field. No one expected me to have the diversity,” he said, adding, “I’m going to grind every day and earn the right of New Yorker to be their mayor.”