NEW YORK — Maya Wiley
, the progressive favorite in New York City's Democratic mayoral primary, thanked supporters in Brooklyn's Flatbush neighborhood on Wednesday, expressing confidence that she will win under the city's ranked-choice voting
“We’ve known all along that we have strong support in the top rankings,” said Wiley, a civil rights
attorney who previously served as counsel to Mayor Bill de Blasio. “We’re excited about the possibility here; we know we can win.”
Wiley believes she has a good chance of winning as the rounds progress pic.twitter.com/bg5VBzUDrz — Daniel Marans (@danielmarans) June 23, 2021
With up to 207,500 absentee ballots still outstanding, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams
leads Wiley 31.7% to 22.2% in first-preference votes
in the Democratic mayoral primary. (Given the city's Democratic slant, the party's nominee is almost certain to win the general election.)
can submit their top five choices for a municipal office under the ranked-choice voting system adopted by New York City voters in a referendum in 2019.
The votes are then counted in five rounds, with the worst-performing candidate eliminated in each round and that candidate's voters redistributed to the next-ranked choice of those voters. The winning candidate is the first person to receive a majority of votes through this multi-round elimination system.
It is extremely rare for a candidate to overcome a first-choice vote deficit in order to win in subsequent rounds, let alone a lead as large as Adams currently has over Wiley.
According to data compiled by FairVote, a nonprofit that promotes the ranked-choice voting system, only 15 of 398 ranked-choice voting elections
with single-candidate winners since 2004 have resulted in a candidate trailing in first-choice votes winning the election.
According to FiveThirtyEight, only three of the 15 come-from-behind candidates overcame first-round deficits of more than 6.2 percentage points.
However, there are a few factors that could increase the chances of an upset in this game.
First, many first-choice votes have yet to be counted. New York City election rules allow absentee ballots to be submitted up to a week after Election Day
, and voters have until July 9 to "cure," or correct, any mistakes that would lead to their absentee ballot being disqualified and thrown out.
So far, 207,500 Democrats
in the city have requested absentee ballots, with 86,920 returning their completed ballots.
The city's Board of Elections is not expected to name an official winner until the week of July 12.
Furthermore, there are some political dynamics at work
that may make Wiley and former sanitation commissioner Kathryn Garcia
, who received 19.5% of the in-person vote and is currently third, more competitive in subsequent rounds.
For one thing, Adams did not run his campaign in such a way as to broaden his appeal to supporters of other candidates, implying that he may have a lower ceiling than a typical front-runner.
Instead, in the final weeks of his campaign, Adams used a slash-and-burn strategy, accusing Wiley of "hypocrisy" for living in an upscale neighborhood with a private security
patrol car while calling for $1 billion in cuts to the NYPD
He aired a television
commercial in which he blamed former sanitation commissioner Garcia for problems in New York City's public housing
that predated her brief tenure
as the city's housing authority.
Most notably, he claimed that Garcia and former presidential candidate Andrew Yang
's quasi-alliance was racist
Wiley reacted angrily to Adams' comments.
“This collaboration is not racist, and we should not be using this term so loosely against other candidates,” she said in a statement. “At a time when this country is seeing real voter suppression
laws enacted, using racism
charges to undermine confidence in ranked-choice voting is cynical, self-interested, and dangerous.”
Wiley avoided major gaffes and controversies in a race in which several candidates flamed out or lashed out in embarrassing ways.
Wiley's supporters believe that her respectful campaigning style helped her gain support from upscale white liberals, Black
voters, and ardent progressives
As a result, they believe she will be the second-choice candidate for voters whose first-choice candidates are eliminated, such as left-wing former nonprofit executive Dianne Morales and NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer
(Stringer received 5% of the in-person, first-choice vote; Morales received 2.8%.)
We were outspent, but not outgunned.
Maya Wiley, a candidate for mayor of New York City
At the same time, many of Yang's Orthodox Jewish
supporters ranked Adams second, implying that Adams could receive a significant portion of Yang's support.
Adams has deep ties to Black and Latino
communities in Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx, which may be able to withstand his divisive tactics.
On Wednesday, outside the Parkside subway station, Leroy Johnson, a Flatbush store owner and activist with New York Communities for Change, approached Wiley and hugged him.
Johnson told Stardia that he ranked Wiley first because he had faith in her commitment to fighting for affordable housing, and that he was disappointed in Adams as a state senator for failing to assist a group of tenants in a dispute with their landlord.
Nonetheless, on his ranked-choice ballot, Johnson placed Adams third.
“Mr. Adams is good in his own way,” Johnson said, agreeing with Adams’ emphasis on public safety.
Whatever the final outcome of the mayoral election, Wiley's strong performance defied the vast majority of public polls prior to Election Day.
She thanked her supporters for sticking with her even when the city's pundits predicted her defeat.
“When we began this journey on October 9th, no one thought that this city would elect a Black woman who had never run for public office before,” she said. “We were outspent, but we were not out-supported.”
Indeed, Wiley's support skyrocketed in the final weeks of the campaign after Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
endorsed her earlier this month, rallying progressive voters behind Wiley's candidacy.
While many analysts predicted a disappointing election cycle for the city's rising left wing, progressive candidates were on track for a number of major victories in city elections. For example, in the city comptroller's primary, progressive favorite City Councilman Brad Lander leads in first-choice votes cast in person by nearly 9 percentage points.
Several of the Democratic Socialists of America-endorsed city council candidates are leading their races, and Alvin Bragg, a reform-minded federal prosecutor, has a slight lead in the Democratic primary
for Manhattan district attorney
, which does not use ranked-choice voting.
On the other side of the state, democratic socialist India
Walton upset Buffalo
's four-term Mayor Byron Brown in a primary election.
“Reports of the progressive movement’s demise are greatly exaggerated,” said George Albro, a member of the New York Progressive Action Network, an Our Revolution affiliate that supported Wiley.