Smoke bellows from a subway manhole. A new Mayor has been chosen. It’s…
THE NEWSLETTER THAT NEVER SLEEPS
- Your weekly five borough briefing -
This is the twelfth edition of The Newsletter That Never Sleeps, from July 8th, 2021. Any new subscribers can read all previous editions, which include breakdowns of local races, ranked choice voting, public safety and COVID recovery here. Welcome!
Hello! Quick programming note: I’ll be off next week to tech a show (they brought theatre back!) and will be a bit too booked to put out the newsletter next week. I’ll buy you dinner the week after and we can get ice cream after. We’ll be back July 22nd with our regularly scheduled programming.
…wait, is that the AP calling the Democratic mayoral primary?
WELCOME TO THE ADAMSVERSE
“Folks, I am with you. We have never seen a mayor with swag like me.”
It’s Eric Adams’ world, and we’re just living in it. After an extremely close call in the final rounds of ranked choice counting and the addition of over 100,000 absentee ballots, the Associated Press called the New York City Democratic mayoral primary (and, effectively, the mayoral race in general) for Borough President Eric Adams.
Though Adams emerged from Election Night as a heavy frontrunner, leading his nearest opponent, Maya Wiley, by over 9%, preliminary ranked choice voting simulations from the Board of Elections showed Adams in a dead heat race with Kathryn Garcia, the former Sanitation Commissioner. Though Adams led Garcia by 12.3% on June 22nd, the two were only separated by 2.2% in the final round of RCV.
Given that the general consensus was that majority of absentee ballots would originate from Garcia-friendly assembly districts in Manhattan, it looked like Adams, who entered Election Day as the unquestioned frontrunner, would likely lose the race to a woman who was polling at 4% in mid-April.
Then, on July 6th, the Board of Elections gave the world a shocking update: they had actually counted all 114,000 absentee ballots without opening a black hole inside the BOE headquarters. Nearly every ballot had been counted… and Adams was still winning- if only by 1%.
With only ~5,000 ballots left to count, it became clear that Adams’ 8,000 vote lead was insurmountable. The absentee ballots that made it to the BOE only skewed towards Garcia 53–47%- half the lead that she needed to overtake Adams. If anything, absentee ballots actually boosted Andrew Yang and Scott Stringer, who each got a .7% boost in the first round of counting after all the ballots were counted.
On Tuesday night, the Associated Press called the race for Adams. Adams took a victory lap on Twitter with an uncropped screenshot of the BOE website. Maya Wiley put out a statement acknowledging that she no longer had a path to victory, and that Eric Adams would win the primary. The next morning, Kathryn Garcia formally conceded the race to Eric Adams.
What a turnaround!
In retrospect, the comeback Garcia would have to mount in order to overtake Adams was an unprecedented one- in a study of over 300 ranked choice voting elections, FiveThirtyEight found that the largest deficit a winning candidate faced in the first round of voting was a little over 9%- a lot lower than Garcia’s 12.5% margin.
The absentee ballots did come largely from Manhattan, but a large number of ballots from Queens and Brooklyn, where Adams dominated, also showed up, and even the ballots from Manhattan were not nearly pro-Garcia enough to move the needle in her favor.
Eric Adams has been on the road to the New York City mayoralty for a very long time. He’s made a lot of allies, enemies, and extremely weird statements along the way- all of which we’ll cover next week- and will likely come into office as the second Black Mayor of New York City.
One could view this victory in two ways: firstly, that Eric Adams would be the 110th Mayor of New York City has been the conventional wisdom for over a year, long before Andrew Yang entered the picture. Adams had the backing of labor, real estate, the most reliable base of voters in the city, a swath of federal officials, and millions of dollars to propel him to Gracie Mansion. This was the most predictable outcome.
On the other hand- Eric Adams had the backing of labor, real estate, the most reliable base of voters in the city, a swath of federal officials, and millions of dollars to propel him to Gracie Mansion- and he only won by 1% against a woman who had none of that. Garcia had no labor backing, very little money, no PAC, and almost zero name recognition before her endorsement by the New York Times.
Did New York City really want Eric Adams as their next Mayor? He did win, in the end, and had a commanding lead in the first round of counting, but only against an extremely fractured field with very little citywide experience. Adams worked hard with the political machine to get the nomination, and he did- but not with much of a mandate.
“I am the face of the Democratic party,” Adams told reporters after the results of the first round of counting were announced, warning against a leftward lurch that would alienate voters that Democrats consider a core part of their base.
After all, a moderate Democrat had just claimed the mantle of the country’s most powerful mayoralty.
DID NEW YORK CITY REJECT A PROGRESSIVE VISION FOR THE FUTURE BY ELECTING ADAMS? THE ANSWER’S NOT THAT SIMPLE…
But what happened downballot? Though the AP called the race for Adams, nearly every bow was neatly tied by Tuesday night, and there are only a few races that could still be swayed by outstanding ballots.
Adams and Garcia’s jostling for the top of the Democratic ticket, as two moderates, was heralded as an example that the Democratic voters rejected the progressive wing of the party that had infiltrated the party ranks after 2016.
While Adams will be a more moderate Mayor than Bill de Blasio, it’s not clear that New Yorkers fully rejected a progressive vision for the future of the city. In two other citywide races, Brad Lander, whom the New York Post described as “one of the most left-leaning politicians in the city”, won the Comptroller race after it became clear that his nearest rival, Corey Johnson, could not overcome Lander’s vote share. Jumaane Williams, a Bernie Sanders endorsee, cruised to reelection as Public Advocate, though he only faced token opposition.
Individual borough-wide races, too, tell a mixed story: progressive city council members Vanessa Gibson and Antonio Reynoso (another Sanders endorsee) won their races for Bronx Borough President and Brooklyn Borough President, respectively. Gibson will succeed Ruben Diaz, Jr., one of the most conservative Democrats in the city, and Reynoso will take over Eric Adams’ current job.
In the Manhattan DA race, Alvin Bragg, while not the Left’s pick for the job, is considerably more progressive than Tali Farhadian-Weinstein, the only other viable opponent in the race who conceded to Bragg a few days after June 22nd.
The New York City chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) put all their electoral stock into putting six candidates onto the city council; realistically, the DSA hoped to elect 3, maybe 4 candidates.
In the end, they only elected 2- public defender Tiffany Caban in CD 22 and organizer Alexa Aviles in CD 38. The rest of their candidates fell short in the RCV rounds in what became disproportionately expensive races on the behalf of local parties to elect loyal Democratic council members.
On the whole, the City Council will be a much more left-leaning body than the executive branch with Adams at the helm, which could create some tension in the coming years. The Working Families Party is expected to expand their bench on the City Council to 14 members- that’s almost 5 times as many WFP backed candidates as there are Republicans in the council.
The new City Council will also be the most diverse in the city’s history: a majority of the new council will be women, seven are foreign born, and the city will see its first South Asian council member, its first Muslim woman council member and first openly gay Black woman council member.
So, did moderates win the top of the ticket? Yes. But for a movement that’s less than six years old, the new progressive left of the party- mixed in with the DSA and the Working Families Party- made huge inroads throughout the city as Adams clutched the mayoralty. It’ll make for a strange governing relationship, and bodes well for a stronger progressive bench of politicians in the next decade.
As we move into the general election, most endorsements for municipal elections are going to fall strictly upon partisan lines. However, there were a few last minute endorsements that we missed going into the primary, and some that ended up really helping candidates pull out a surprise victory:
Former President Donald Trump endorsed Vito Fossella for Staten Island Borough President. I very much missed this during the primary. Fossella spent next to nothing during the primary (around $200), and relied on old connections from Washington to spread the word about his BP campaign.
President Trump, who was not a contemporary of Fossella’s in congress, endorsed the former representative and recorded a robocall that went out to registered Republicans across the island. Trump put out a statement after Fossella declared victory, congratulating the new Borough President.
Fossella ran as a Trump republican, though the role of BP isn’t really a political one- it was a smart move by the former rep to politically engage the county that loves Donald Trump. Though his opponent, CD 50 Rep. Steve Matteo, led the count by 25 votes last week, absentee ballots put Fossella over the top by more than 300 votes.
Former Mayor of New York City and Not-Attorney Rudy Giuliani endorsed Curtis Sliwa for Mayor, and… sort of Eric Adams. Rudy is a Republican, and he endorses Republicans, so he says. But, according to Giuliani, “if I had to [vote for a Democrat] there’s no question that Adams gives us some hope that he can be practical once elected.” Maybe bipartisanship isn’t dead after all!
Andrew Yang, and the rest of the Democratic field, endorsed Eric Adams for Mayor. Though it was a fiery primary with many heated attacks aimed at Adams, who many rivals labelled too dangerous and headstrong of a candidate to take on the office of Mayor, the field quickly consolidated around Adams once it was clear that he would win the nomination. Yang was the first to announce his support for Adams, but stopped short of saying he would work with Adams to get him elected.
Former Secretary of State and 2016 Democratic Nominee for President Hillary Clinton endorsed Zach Iscol for Comptroller. Ischol got 3% of the vote. I also totally missed this one- how do Iscol, a Marine vet who runs a small nonprofit, and Clinton even know each other? Why wouldn’t she endorse someone with a chance of winning?
Clinton’s only other endorsement in New York City, Tali Farhadian-Weinstein in the Manhattan DA race, came up short against Alvin Bragg, a Deputy Attorney General and adjunct law professor. Clinton has really lost her pull in New York.
Overall, how would you describe the problem of crime– is it extremely serious, very serious, moderately serious, not too serious, or not serious at all?
a. in the United States
Extremely serious: 28%
Very serious: 31%
Moderately serious: 32%
Not too serious: 6%
Not at all serious: 1%
b. in the area where you live
Extremely serious: 7%
Very serious: 10%
Moderately serious: 33%
Not too serious: 31%
Not at all serious: 17%
The recent primary election was, whether or not by the volition of the voters, a referendum on crime. There’s been plenty of media attention paid both to the rising rate of violent crime in New York City, and plenty more media attention reacting to that media attention. While crime has risen precipitously in New York City over the last year, experts are at disagreements over whether this is a reaction to COVID-19 or part of a larger, unforeseen trend.
What the experts do agree on, however, is that though the media painted New York City as a modern day Gotham in the weeks leading up to the election, violent crime is occurring nowhere near the rate that it was even 20 years ago. This uptick in crime is, in context, taking place in a New York that is safer than it’s been in over five decades.
This dissonance is not endemic just to New York City, and it’s certainly not new. Whether or not it’s backed up by data, crime always seems to be on the rise. It was a claim repeated throughout the first years of the de Blasio administration, even as rates of violent crime plummeted.
That disconnect is captured pretty well in this WaPo/ABC poll, in which respondents were asked about the risk crime poses to the U.S. as a whole and the immediate area in which they live. Nationally, voters think crime is a very big problem, with 91% of respondents saying that crime is a moderate to extreme risk to the country.
On the contrary, only 50% of respondents thought that crime was a risk to their community, and only 17% see it as an extremely or very serious problem. While Americans correctly recognize that in their immediate vicinity, crime is generally lingering at historic lows- even factoring in a pandemic bump- they think the rest of the country is a lot more dangerous than their neighborhood.
Why is this? Why do we immediately assume that the rest of the nation is less safe than our home turf? There’s no definitive answer, but consider from where we get our information about our surroundings. We can see, first hand, the effects of crime (or lack thereof), in our neighborhoods, but our only source of information on the rest of the country is what we see in the media.
The media is not a “no news is good news” business. Non-events and days without crimes don’t get major coverage. Our experience of the world outside of our immediate vicinity is brought to us through a sensational lens, which, likely, leads us to view the rest of the country as more crime-ridden than it actually is.
While Eric Adams doesn’t have the best relationship with the media, he certainly owes them a debt of gratitude for moving the zeitgeist into play within his political stronghold.
Eric Adams Faces a Schooling on Major New York City Education Issues, by Alex Zimmerman and Christiana Veiga
A look, from the perspective of public school teachers, on the challenges Eric Adams- who was not endorsed by the UFT- faces as a pro-charter school candidate for Mayor.
‘We’re in a new epidemic’: Cuomo issues first-in-nation disaster emergency on gun violence in N.Y., by Chris Sommerfeldt
Governor Cuomo has issued a new state of emergency just weeks after the COVID emergency declaration expired: one on gun violence. This will allow the Governor to allocate over $100 million to areas experiencing upticks in gun violence and bolster the state police’s anti-gun trafficking programs.
Does a parade cost more than hazard pay? Several unions, who boycotted yesterday’s Hometown Heroes parade honoring essential workers, seem to think not, and that a parade isn’t sufficient compensation for their labor.
Newly Reported Cases (7/1–7/8): 184 avg. daily cases (+1%)
Newly Reported Hospitalizations: 418 avg. hospitalized patients (-24%)
As you may have noticed above, COVID-19 rates in New York City rose slightly for the first time since April. The city government is beginning to sound the alarm on the Delta variant of the coronavirus, which now makes up 44% of new cases in New York City.
The city is just a little over half vaccinated, and early reports on the Delta variant purport that it may be highly transmissible, more so than the more prevalent Alpha variant, among unvaccinated people.
However, reading too much into a 1% increase in the COVID infection rate is a bit unnecessary. While the Delta variant is definitely making its way through NYC, the slight rise in cases (from 182 avg. daily cases to 184 daily cases) is so small that it may as well be a statistical error. The truth is, cases have fallen so low in the past few months that in a city of over 8 million people, there’s not much lower to go.
Cases could definitely rise in a more staggering manner, especially if the Delta variant is as easily transmissible among unvaccinated people as some fear, but until then, I wouldn’t worry too much about these numbers.
Brooklyn: 45% fully vaccinated (+1), 56% adults vaccinated (+1)
The Bronx: 43% fully vaccinated (+1), 55% adults vaccinated (+2)
Manhattan: 63% fully vaccinated (+1), 71% adults vaccinated (+1)
Staten Island: 48% fully vaccinated (+1), 59% adults vaccinated (-)
Queens: 57% fully vaccinated (+1), 69% adults vaccinated (nice)
Speaking of unvaccinated people… things have really slowed down on the vaccine push put in place by Governor Cuomo. Once 70% of adult New Yorkers were vaccinated, state efforts to get as many vaccines into arms as possible slowed down a bit, and vaccination rates have stalled across the state.
The problem here seems to be getting the vaccine into neighborhoods that don’t have easy access to healthcare centers- many of those neighborhoods are in New York City. This healthcare disparity disproportionately affects people of color and non-English speakers.
The city has paid for Spanish advertising on the COVID vaccines, and have made ad buys in Black neighborhoods to dispel hesitancy over the vaccine. So far, that doesn’t seem to have boosted the vaccination rate of majority-minority zip codes in NYC.
As of July 7th, 2021, courtesy of the New York Times
WHAT HAPPENED TO ANDREW YANG?
Several times in the past few months, whenever I was with people and the topic of the Mayor’s race came up, I got the same question from numerous people: “Andrew Yang’s gonna win, right?” As Yang dominated the airwaves and led polling by double digits in the early months of the race, it seemed like a foregone conclusion.
On the night of the primary, Andrew Yang conceded the race mere hours after the polls closed as it became clear he wasn’t going to break 12% of the vote. After reaching a polling average as high as 30% early in the primary, Yang did what many politicos predicted he wouldn’t do- he collapsed.
And he didn’t just collapse. He fell through the Earth. To use the early frontrunner of the last Democratic primary, Christine Quinn, as an example- Quinn’s campaign fell apart at the seams in the final weeks of the race, but she still managed to finish in a respectable third place, even after she had effectively given up the race to Bill de Blasio, who finished with over 40% of the vote.
Yang, on the other hand, had polling in the week of the primary that showed him cracking 20% and within a reasonable margin of Eric Adams. Most polling had him around the 15% mark, but his campaign stressed that 40% of voters in the 2021 primary were new voters, and therefore difficult to account for in polling. Ostensibly, Yang was reaching those new voters who had never turned out before for a municipal election.
He did not. He underperformed even the most pessimistic polling, without winning a single borough or a single neighborhood outside of Queens.
What the hell happened?
Yang’s early success in the primary was due to a number of factors- ambiguity being the most prevalent. Voters were not especially tuned into the mayoral primary yet, still weary from the 2020 Presidential Election. Joe Biden had only been President for a week when Andrew Yang announced his campaign!
And Andrew Yang was coming back to New York with a lot of political goodwill; he left a good impression on voters in the presidential primary as a smart outsider with a lot of good ideas who wasn’t too far to the left but had some progressive policies. He spent all of January working day and night to get Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock elected to the Senate.
When Yang announced his campaign for Mayor, Eric Adams and Scott Stringer were already in the field but still laying out the groundwork for a citywide campaign. They had good name recognition but were not national figures like Yang. Yang was a fun guy who seemed smart, everyone seemed to know who he was, he was a breath of fresh air and, importantly, it wasn’t entirely clear what he stood for.
Yang, upon entering the race, broke New York City’s coalition-building model completely; he was leading with nearly every demographic, even those lying at complete opposite ends of the political spectrum. He led with older White voters, but also young Black and Latino voters. He led with young men without a college degree, but also led among stay at home moms. They could all superimpose some kind of favorable political image onto Yang, because he didn’t actively provide one to voters.
That was enough to bolster Yang’s campaign for a good while. The media took hits on Yang for silly gaffes, such as not knowing what a bodega is, that painted him as a carpetbagger and opportunist. It was clear he didn’t have much political experience, and many predicted that his polling lead was a mirage from name recognition and would evaporate as voters tuned in.
Then again, many of those same people said, the same was said of Joe Biden, on whom every eye in the nation was trained, waiting for his primary campaign to fall apart. It never did.
But Yang turned out not to be the Joe Biden of the race, the one who voters turned to in a time of crisis for their dependability and traditional politics. That would be Eric Adams, who, as the race became more centered around rising violent crime and COVID recovery, began to rise in the polls as Yang offered little in terms of concrete policy.
And then Yang had to offer up some real policy. Was he a progressive? Was he a Bloomberg moderate? Was he something completely new, which would continue to eat away at the old political machine and block anyone else from putting together a legitimate anti-Yang coalition?
For a while, there didn’t seem to be the energy for an anti-Yang coalition. Then Yang took a hard right turn on crime to edge out Adams, a former police officer. That turned off some progressive voters, who were flirting with Scott Stringer and Dianne Morales. Then Yang suggested cracking down on street vendors and started tweeting about Israel. The young left completely abandoned his campaign.
He wasn’t getting much love from labor, either. When he slipped up and suggested cutting tenure for public school teachers and sung the praises of charter schools, large unions completely shut him out of any legitimate endorsement conversation, and would end up explicitly telling their voters to not rank Yang *anywhere* on their ballot.
With the media hitting him on his naivety, progressives abandoning him over his offputting moderate turn and labor slamming the door in his face, the man who had an inroad into every demographic in the electorate began to lose ground quickly.
Rather than expand his base and lean into the qualities that made him an appealing presidential candidate, Yang pigeonholed himself as a more quirky Eric Adams- tough on crime, lax on school reform, friendly to real estate and constantly saying something to anger the Left. The only problem was that Eric Adams did Eric Adams a lot better.
Why would Yang position himself in such a politically unfavorable position? His former presidential staffers offered up a big reason: Bradley Tusk, a powerful Bloomberg veteran who was the one who recruited Yang into running in the first place. It’s not crazy to imagine Yang as a Bloomberg type: smart with money, independent from the political machine, leaning hard into the “competent manager” archetype.
But that’s not who Andrew Yang was in 2020, and it didn’t suit him well in 2021. Tusk, at the helm of Yang’s mayoral campaign, reigned in the more quirky and enjoyable aspects of Andrew Yang, preventing him from holding fundraisers with celebrities like Snoop Dogg, scaling back his UBI program and instead putting him in front of real estate developers who would deliver millions to his campaign.
And so Yang lost ground to Eric Adams, who began to bring together a coalition of working class voters, moderate voters, older voters, and a huge share of the Black electorate across class lines. Media savvy voters shunned Yang and turned to Kathryn Garcia, who was picking up new media endorsements by the day. The progressives, increasingly horrified by what Yang was saying on the campaign trail, finally settled on Maya Wiley after the implosion of Scott Stringer and Dianne Morales’ campaign.
Yang could have commanded all of these spaces, and more, but instead gaffed himself out of all of them. All of his political goodwill dried up as Tusk squeezed a square peg into a round hole. It made him a lot of money, but it destroyed any political future Andrew Yang, not even 50, might have had.
Spending the final days on the trail with Kathryn Garcia, Yang hoped to block Adams from as many ballots as possible, hoping that low propensity voters would make a last minute decision to rank Yang, and to endear himself to Garcia’s base of wealthy White voters. None of it worked.
“You all know I am a numbers guy, I’m someone who traffics in what’s happening by the numbers,” Yang told a crowd of shellshocked supporters as results from the first round of voting came in, “and I am not going to be the next mayor of New York City, based upon the numbers that have come in tonight.”
When Eric Adams was declared the winner of the primary, Yang sent out a characteristic cheery tweet:
“The primary is over and the real work begins. My family and I are rooting for New York and for Eric Adams to succeed.”
Note the use of “rooting for” as the most active phrase here. Andrew Yang will not go out to campaign for Eric Adams. Not that Adams really needs it- Adams also probably wouldn’t want it. Yang may not have made many inroads during the campaign, but he made a good amount of enemies.
It’s unclear what’s next for Andrew Yang, the man who defied all the odds to emerge as one of the top candidates in a national crowd of 29 Democrats with next to no name recognition and little money, who started a cult of personality based around his idiosyncratic personality and politics, and who could have been the Mayor of New York City if he didn’t so actively invite failure upon his campaign.
Whatever he does in the future, he’ll probably have more time to get around, learn about our great city and how it works. Welcome to New York, Andrew!
Thanks for reading this edition of The Newsletter That Never Sleeps. If you have any feedback, leads, stories, or just want to reach out, feel free to email me at email@example.com or @kieranian_ on Twitter.