Mayoral candidates Kathryn Garcia and Andrew Yang kicked off a day of campaigning together on Saturday, reflecting a ranked-choice strategy that could benefit both their candidacies by encouraging their respective supporters to rank them on their ballot.
But there was an obvious imbalance to their allegiance: Standing near the L train station at Stuyvesant Town in Manhattan, Yang, who has previously said he would rank Garcia as his second choice, sung Garcia’s praises to reporters. Garcia, however, refrained from telling voters whether they should put Yang on their ballot. The two began their day by greeting voters together in Flushing, Queens, a heavily Asian American neighborhood where Yang has strong support.
“Let me be very clear. I’m not co-endorsing,” she said, after Yang had called her “a tremendous public servant” and “a good person.”
Garcia, who voted earlier this week but did not reveal her ranked choices beyond herself, said she saw the opportunity of joint campaigning as a way to get out the vote with three days to go until Tuesday’s primary. Early voting, which began last weekend, will run through Sunday. For the first time, primary voters can choose up to five candidates for mayor and other elected positions.
Recent polls suggest that the two candidates are on different trajectories. Garcia, the former sanitation commissioner who entered the race as a dark horse, has surged in recent polls, helped by endorsements from the New York Times and the Daily News. As a former presidential candidate, Yang benefited from the highest name recognition of all the candidates. Yet a lack of policy and city government knowledge has caused him to falter in recent weeks. Two polls have shown him in fourth place, behind Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, Garcia, and Maya Wiley, the former counsel to Mayor Bill de Blasio.
After the press conference, Yang said he did not think his strategy might backfire by turning more voters toward Garcia.
“Anyone who’s supporting me, I believe that they’ll wind up ranking me at the top of their ballot,” he told Gothamist. “We should be taking advantage of rank-choice voting to make sure that the candidates with the right agendas are at the top of as many people’s ballots as possible.”
Adams, who has been topping the polls, said the strategy was a racially motivated attempt to thwart his candidacy.
“They’re saying that we can’t trust a person of color to be the mayor of the City of New York where this city is overwhelmingly people of color” he told reporters in the Bronx on Saturday.
Adams later clarified that he meant Black or Latino in the race as a person of color.
Adams had called the press conference to address an incident on Thursday that saw two children caught in the middle of gunfire.
He also noted with slight disgust that the political move fell on Juneteenth, a commemoration of the end of slavery which was recognized as a federal holiday for the first time.
Polls, endorsements and reporting indicate that Adams will have a strong base of support in Black communities in parts of central Brooklyn and southeastern Queens, which represent the core of the Black vote in New York City.
Laurie Cumbo, a Brooklyn City Councilmember who supports Adams, described the collaboration as “two desperate politicians” as “ganging up to sideline the voices of Black and Brown voters through a ranked-choice process that many in our communities still don’t understand” in tweet.
In the eleventh hour of this election, two desperate politicians are ganging up to sideline the voices of Black and Brown voters through a ranked-choice process that many in our communities still don’t understand. It’s a cynical game that we see through, and we’re not having it.
— Laurie Cumbo (@cmlauriecumbo) June 19, 2021
Adams also accused the two of being hypocritical. Garcia has accused Yang of being sexist by publicly offering her a role in his administration, while Yang recently criticized Garcia for her management of the city’s sanitation department and tried to attach her to the de Blasio administration.
“We heard Kathryn talk about how Yang treated her as a woman. We heard how she felt he did not have the experience, the know-how, to run the city,” Adams said.
Asked about his comments, Garcia declined to respond while Yang said, “I would tell Eric Adams that I’ve been Asian my entire life.”
In the late stages of the race, Yang and Garcia appear interested on using the full potential of ranked-choice voting by reaching out to rivals. In a close ranked-choice voting race where no one has the majority, the number of second-choice votes could wind up determining the winner.
Garcia’s campaign told the New York Times that they had recently reached out to Ray McGuire for a possible cross-endorsement. The former Black Wall Street executive has campaigned heavily in Black neighborhoods. But negotiations fell apart, according to the Times.
On Saturday, Wiley revealed that Yang had also asked her to campaign with himself and Garcia. However, she said she “couldn’t do it” after Yang’s remarks about the mentally ill attacking New Yorkers that many saw as fearmongering.
Yang did not comment on Wiley’s statement, but he did tell reporters that his campaign was in “regular contact with multiple other campaigns.”
“Stay tuned,” he said.