Andrew Seng for The New York Times
James Estrin/The New York Times
Michelle V. Agins/The New York Times
Hilary Swift for The New York Times
Sarah Blesener for The New York Times
The men and women who would be mayor dashed through the five boroughs on Monday in one last attempt to win voters’ allegiance a day before a Democratic primary that will almost certainly determine the next mayor of New York City.
They hit up the early shows, glad-handed at subway stations, rallied with supporters and in Andrew Yang’s case, zoomed around the five boroughs in a van emblazoned with his face that his campaign dubbed the Yangatron.
By Monday, the candidates had settled on their closing arguments, which unexpectedly involved evidence-free claims by one of the leading candidates, Eric Adams, that a late-in-the-race alliance between two of his rivals amounted to an effort to suppress the Black and Latino vote.
This is New York City’s first ranked-choice mayor’s race, in which voters can rank up to five candidates in order of preference. Alliances are common in ranked-choice elections, and Mr. Yang, the former presidential candidate, has formed a loose one with Kathryn Garcia, a former sanitation commissioner.
They are campaigning together, and he is urging his supporters to rank her second on their ballots. Ms. Garcia is not returning the favor — she says she is merely getting out the vote.
After months of suggesting that Ms. Garcia would merely make a good second-in-command, Mr. Yang’s new gambit cast him in a more generous light — and to his campaign’s delight, the response it elicited from Mr. Adams has united Mr. Adams’s opponents in consternation.
On Monday, the day after the Adams campaign released a series of quotes from allies alleging that Ms. Garcia’s and Mr. Yang’s decision to campaign together on Juneteenth was an effort to weaken the Black and Latino vote, Mr. Adams told CNN that those were merely his allies’ words. In the next breath, he talked about tactics once used in Southern states to make it harder for Black people to vote.
“I can say this, that African-Americans are very clear on voter suppression,” said Mr. Adams, the Brooklyn borough president. “We know about a poll tax.”
Mr. Yang and Ms. Garcia condemned Mr. Adams’s comments. Mr. Yang’s advisers hope that Mr. Adams’ comments will stoke doubt among some moderates who were considering ranking him.
Maya Wiley, another Black candidate and the leading candidate on the left, condemned Mr. Adams’s comments without naming him.
“At a time when this country is seeing real voter suppression laws being enacted, using racism charges to undermine confidence in ranked-choice voting is cynical, self-interested and dangerous,” she said.
The New York City primary is underway, but it could be weeks before we find out who won the top contest: the Democratic race for mayor.
Given the city’s electoral makeup, the winning Democrat is almost certain to be elected mayor in November. On Tuesday night, we should find out which candidate is leading among the ballots cast in-person on Primary Day and during nine days of early voting.
But election officials must also wait for tens of thousands of absentee ballots to arrive and be counted as well.
And there is a new wrinkle this year that complicates the timeline further: The city is using ranked-choice voting for the first time in a mayoral race. Only New Yorkers’ first-choice votes will be counted right away, but their other choices could potentially be decisive.
In other words, it cannot be assumed that the candidate who is winning after first-choice votes are counted on Tuesday will end up the winner. Another candidate could get more second- and third-choice votes and overtake the early leader.
That’s why proponents of ranked-choice voting are urging New Yorkers to be patient.
“Democracy takes time, and every vote counts,” said Susan Lerner, the executive director of Common Cause New York, a government watchdog group. “Accurate and fair election results are worth waiting for.”
The phone calls may have surprised many New Yorkers on Monday afternoon. In recorded messages, anxious-sounding parents accused two leading mayoral candidates of harming their Jewish children in exchange for votes, turning a blind eye to academic lapses at some religious schools in pursuit of support from the city’s Hasidic communities.
“Do not rank either Eric Adams or Andrew Yang when you vote on Tuesday. Don’t let them harm my child’s future,” a woman’s voice says in one call. “Yang and Adams have both made deals with ultra-Orthodox rabbis in exchange for the Hasidic bloc vote, and will allow tens of thousands of children to be denied an education in even basic math, science and American history.”
In another recording, a man’s voice warns that thousands of Hasidic students “like me” are not being taught basic facts like the history of slavery in the United States.
The calls were paid for by a newly registered PAC, Voters for Substantial Equivalency. The PAC says it paid for one million of the calls and is not affiliated with any candidate.
In an interview, Beatrice Weber, an advocate for stronger enforcement of state laws requiring religious schools to provide “substantially equivalent” secular education to public ones, identified herself as one of the callers.
Ms. Weber, a mother of 10 who grew up in the city’s Hasidic community but left after divorcing her husband, has been vocal about her struggle to spur state action to improve math and English at the Brooklyn yeshiva where, under a court order, she is obliged to send her youngest child.
Her frustration grew, she said, as prominent rabbis endorsed Mr. Yang, who declared he would not get involved in regulating religious schools, and Mr. Adams, who visited a yeshiva and praised its academic program.
She noted that many religious schools, Jewish and otherwise, offer excellent secular education, but that some, like her son’s, have teachers without high school educations and offer only a few hours’ instruction in nonreligious subjects a week.
Ms. Weber said she knew the calls have upset some people who wondered if they were part of some anti-Semitic campaign.
“That’s part of the problem,” she said. “It’s hard to speak up because of fears that you’ll be considered anti-Semitic if you dare.”
She added, “My grandparents were killed in the Holocaust. But if you’re a parent and a candidate says, ‘For this segment of the population, we’re not going to be enforcing education standards,’ I think that would bother you.”
Maya Wiley made her campaign’s closing remarks on Monday evening outside the Brooklyn Museum, where she had announced her candidacy in October, delivering a speech that cast herself as an empathetic, progressive leader who, if elected, would become the first Black woman to be mayor of the city.
It was Ms. Wiley’s last campaign event before Primary Day, and she was joined by an array of supporters, which included members of the City Council, the State Legislature and other backers — like the activist Gloria Steinem, who introduced Ms. Wiley.
“We have never, ever had a woman, or a woman like this, before,” Ms. Steinem said.
They described her as a candidate who would uniquely represent a change from the status quo, both through her policies and her identity. Ms. Wiley, they said, would build on the protests for racial justice and address the systemic inequities laid bare by the pandemic.
“She’s got the right vision for the right moment here in New York City,” said Representative Nydia Velazquez of Brooklyn.
Ms. Wiley talked about supporting essential workers by making the city more affordable and about having empathy for the many police officers who grapple with mental health issues.
“We will stand tough to have the courage to be compassionate,” she said.
She fought back tears as she invoked her father, George Wiley, a prominent civil rights activist who died after falling off a boat in the Chesapeake Bay in 1973. And she said that during the campaign, she had “learned how to be unapologetically Black and unapologetically a woman.”
“We are queens, and we are qualified,” Ms. Wiley said.
At a joint appearance Monday evening to distribute campaign literature and boost voter turnout in Flushing, Queens, Kathryn Garcia and Andrew Yang defended their decision to appear together several times in the last weekend of campaigning.
Ms. Garcia in particular pushed back forcefully against criticism by Eric Adams, one of the leading candidates in the race, and by Mayor Bill de Blasio, her former boss, who called the joint appearances an “opportunistic” strategy by Mr. Yang and Ms. Garcia.
“Or is it perhaps the pot calling the kettle black?” Ms. Garcia said, when asked by a reporter. “I’ve not been a politician. Those are two people that have been in politics a long time. Maybe they’re seeing more there than there is because that’s how they would approach it.”
Mr. Yang, for his part, cast the mayor’s comments and Mr. Adams’s insistence that he and Ms. Garcia were engaging in voter suppression as divisive remarks that proved that the city needed new leadership.
“New Yorkers have been waiting for quite some time to have the kind of leadership that will bring people together, that will unify the city, that will cooperate with people even that they’re competing against,” Mr. Yang said. “We don’t need someone who’s going to come up with reasons for us to turn against each other.”
John C. Liu, a state senator who represents parts of northeast Queens and endorsed Mr. Yang, said that the two candidates campaigning together had its advantages.
“There’s nothing strange going on here. Flushing is ‘Yang Land,’ and Andrew is here,” he said, to cheers from Mr. Yang’s campaign staff and supporters. “And it’s a smart thing for Kathryn Garcia to be in Yang Land also.”
After taking questions from the press, Mr. Yang, Ms. Garcia and Mr. Liu marched through the sidewalks of Flushing, an army of press and campaign volunteers in tow.
As they moved, a campaign staffer with a bullhorn shouted, “Yang for mayor! Garcia for mayor! Don’t forget to vote tomorrow!”
Andrew Yang joined the conservative billionaire John Catsimatidis on his radio show on Monday, where he doubled down on his comments at the final mayoral debate about getting people with mental health problems off the streets.
Mr. Catsimatidis lamented that too many people were living on the streets instead of in hospitals, arguing that the situation was better under Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former mayor.
Mr. Yang agreed, saying, “100 percent.” He added: “We need to get them the care that they need, but that will also supercharge our economic recovery because we all see these mentally ill people on our streets and subways, and you know who else sees them? Tourists. And then they don’t come back, and they tell their friends, ‘Don’t go to New York City.’”
“We’re never going to get our jobs back and our economy back if we don’t get the mentally ill people who are on our streets in a better environment,” Mr. Yang added.
Mr. Yang received criticism for his comments at the debate last week, which many viewed as insensitive.
“Yes, mentally ill people have rights, but you know who else have rights? We do!” he said during the debate. “The people and families of the city.”
Maya Wiley, a former counsel to Mayor Bill de Blasio, said she was so disappointed by Mr. Yang’s comments that she decided she would not campaign with him. Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, said that he was “really disturbed” by the remarks and that Mr. Yang was trying to “demonize” people with mental health problems.
Later, at a campaign event with Kathryn Garcia, Mr. Yang stood by his comments to Mr. Catsimatidis, again framing the issue as one of public safety.
“We all know that public safety is top of mind for New Yorkers,” he said. “There will not be an economic recovery until people feel safe walking our streets and walking our subways.”
Ms. Garcia, who before she had started campaigning with Mr. Yang had said his past comments on the issue lacked empathy, did not criticize him on Monday. As she has before, Ms. Garcia said she wanted to see more mental health professionals help the people who are mentally ill in this city.
“That is the compassionate thing to do,” she said. “And that we have to get the folks who are on our street into permanent housing. Having people live on our streets means that they are unhealthy. Housing can really heal.”
Eric Adams, the presumed front-runner, escalated his feud with Andrew Yang, the one-time front-runner, after getting into a lengthy discussion about street violence with voters in Queens.
During events on Monday, Mr. Yang, a former presidential candidate, called the possibility of an Adams administration “deeply concerning.” He raised questions about his rival’s ethics and transparency. And he criticized Mr. Adams for criticizing ranked-choice voting as a way for candidates to suppress the votes of Black and Latino residents.
Mr. Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, and his supporters have called an alliance between Mr. Yang and another leading candidate, Kathryn Garcia, a former sanitation commissioner, an effort to stop a Black or Latino person from becoming mayor.
“We know America’s dark past,” Mr. Adams said Monday on “Good Day New York.” “Everything from poll taxes to how we stop the vote, what we are seeing across the country.”
Asked about Mr. Yang at an afternoon news conference in Brooklyn, Mr. Adams was alternately insulting and dismissive.
“What is Andrew Yang still doing in this race? We know Andrew Yang is a fraud, he’s a liar,” Mr. Adams said. “We could care less about Andrew Yang. We are so focused on the race.”
He also walked back comments he made on Sunday alleging that the Yang-Garcia alliance was an attempt to steal the election from Black and Latino voters.
“I assure voters that no one is going to steal the election from them,” Mr. Adams said.
The tussle with Mr. Yang wasn’t his only confrontation of the day. During a campaign stop about gun violence at South Jamaica Houses, Mr. Adams encountered Donald Davis, 36.
Mr. Davis, an employee of public housing, said that he was a victim of gun violence and that a friend was recently shot at a store just across the street from where Mr. Adams was holding his news conference. He questioned whether Mr. Adams would follow through on his promises.
“I just didn’t want everybody to think because the brother’s Black, let’s vote for somebody that’s Black and he not do what he’s supposed to do,” Mr. Davis said from the crowd.
After answering questions from reporters, Mr. Adams went and spoke with Mr. Davis. He gave his cellphone number and said he wanted to partner with Mr. Davis to intervene in the lives of gang members.
“I want you to take the pain you’re feeling and turn it into purpose,” Mr. Adams said. “Brothers gonna work it out.”
Mr. Davis said he was cautiously optimistic.
“A man only has his word,” Mr. Davis said. “He’s spoken on it and now we have to see if he’s going to act on what he spoke about.”
In the final hours before Primary Day, Maya Wiley traveled to East New York, where she tried to win over skeptical voters in an area of the city that was hard hit by the pandemic.
Campaigning alongside Nikki Lucas, a candidate for City Council, Ms. Wiley distributed fliers outside of City Fresh Market in Starrett City, a sprawling housing development on Jamaica Bay.
Seria Campbell, 46, got a chance to snap a picture with Ms. Wiley, but said she was still undecided about who will get her first ranked-choice vote on Tuesday.
“I haven’t really heard anybody talk in depth about the homelessness of New York City, the increase of crime and the increase in rents,” she said. “I haven’t really heard anybody really dig into that, and if they have, they just touched upon it. They don’t really go into depth about how they’re going to get this done.”
Ms. Campbell, who lost her job during the pandemic, said she thinks more health care facilities in the neighborhood would greatly improve people’s lives.
She said she was skeptical of the ranked-choice voting system. “Maybe because it’s new to me, but I feel like if you vote for one person and that one person gets the majority, it’s more of a concrete decision,” she said.
Marie Canada, another voter who spoke to Ms. Wiley, said the ranked-choice system was peculiar. She voted early last week and couldn’t recall if Ms. Wiley was her first or second choice.
“They had so many circles, I messed up at one point and had to do it over,” she said.
Ms. Canada, who said she was in her 70s, said she was a bit disheartened that not many candidates talked about how they would tackle gun violence in the area.
“Every person that’s in the elections don’t want to go into that, and we really need something done about these guns on the street,” she said. “We need to find out where they’re coming from and put a stop to it.”
The heat was stifling, the polls were discouraging and the size of the crowd following Shaun Donovan around a street festival in the Bronx was meager compared to the group swarming around one of his competitors, Andrew Yang, at the same event.
But as he spoke to a group gathered near Joyce Kilmer Park in the South Bronx, Mr. Donovan, a former housing secretary, sounded remarkably upbeat.
“I would love your support,” Mr. Donovan said, standing in front of a mobile circus stage. “I love to see you all out celebrating. But let’s put folks back to work, let’s get our small businesses going, let’s make this city work for everyone.”
As Mr. Donovan and Mr. Yang crossed paths, they had a brief and congenial exchange before continuing on to campaign. But Mr. Donovan, who has been chiding other candidates for nasty attacks and name-calling in recent weeks, suggested in an interview with The New York Times that he was not convinced that Mr. Yang had what it took to lead.
“This is a moment where we can’t have a mayor who needs training, a mayor who is a rookie,” he said. “We need someone who for 30 years has been working on behalf of the community to make a difference.”
Mr. Donovan was particularly critical of a decision made by Mr. Yang and Kathryn Garcia to campaign together in an apparent display of mutual support. (Mr. Yang has endorsed Ms. Garcia as a second-choice candidate; she has not returned the gesture).
“I’ve seen over the last two months, Kathryn Garcia saying clearly that Andrew Yang is not qualified. For two months,” he said. “And in the last two days, they’ve been campaigning together. That’s the kind of politics that New Yorkers don’t want to see.”
But Mr. Donovan, who has recently accused candidates of putting rhetoric over results, did not directly criticize comments made by Eric Adams that likened Mr. Yang and Ms. Garcia’s campaigning together to a voter-suppression effort.
Instead, he said that he believed in the power of ranked-choice voting, which he said “could be a vehicle for greater democracy,” noting that having more choices gave people more say in the future of the city.
Not even 10 minutes into Andrew Yang’s inaugural trip in his campaign van Monday morning and there was a problem. The air conditioning had given out, so the vehicle sporting Mr. Yang’s grinning face on its side had pulled over next to a gas station on Staten Island.
“We’ll be OK,” Mr. Yang said, reassuring the driver and campaign staff members who were worried about sticking to schedule on the humid morning. “Just go to the next thing.”
It was, in a way, the perfect encapsulation of his optimistic monthslong pitch to voters. New York City, facing a nexus of crises, would be OK as long as anxious voters went on to the next thing: him.
To reinforce the message, Mr. Yang, a tireless campaigner, planned to spend his last day before polls opened on Tuesday traveling to all five boroughs in a van dubbed the “Yangatron.” The nickname referred to Mr. Yang’s answer in an interview that his favorite previous New York mayor would be a “Voltron”-like amalgamation of several of them.
Mr. Yang, who has vowed to be the city’s cheerleader-in-chief if elected, posed for selfies with voters at Staten Island’s ferry terminal and gave the thumbs-up to commuters sprinting to grab the boat to Manhattan.
But in recent weeks, he has also painted a dire picture of the city’s future if one of his chief rivals, Eric Adams, wins. As the van left the gas station, Mr. Yang called the possibility of an Adams administration “deeply concerning” and criticized Mr. Adams for describing ranked-choice voting as a tool for suppressing the Black and Latino vote.
“Imagine an administration that is led by someone who cuts corners and breaks rules and is constantly under investigation and then attacks whenever he’s criticized and then invokes race as the rationale for any criticism that’s directed toward him,” Mr. Yang said, “and then you imagine hundreds of managers taking their cues from this person.”
“That kind of administration would be mired in dysfunction and questions and investigation almost from Day 1,” he added.
Mr. Yang expressed fewer concerns about other candidates. He has asked his supporters to rank Kathryn Garcia second. On Sunday, he offered positive comments about Maya Wiley. And he said at a campaign stop in Brooklyn Monday that he had ranked five candidates on his ballot and that his campaign “may have some announcements coming out” about the issue.
Mr. Yang said that, win or lose, he hoped to leave New Yorkers with the lasting message that they should not tolerate a government that failed to properly work for them.
“So many of us here in New York have just been settling for agencies and elected officials that are just barely getting by,” he said, as the campaign van cruised over the Verrazzano-Narrows Bridge, its air conditioning problem apparently fixed. “And we’re all just sort of slumping into it. And our politicians have become people who are just apologizing.”
Handing out fliers between sips of tea, Maya Wiley met with voters Monday outside Fairway Market on the Upper West Side on the final day of the mayoral primary campaign.
“All the best to you, Queen!” one woman shouted as she walked past.
Mike Raschilla, 26, paused mid-grocery run to shake Ms. Wiley’s hand. Mr. Raschilla, a law student from the Upper East Side, said several of the reasons he had decided to go to law school aligned with why he voted for Ms. Wiley, a former counsel to Mayor Bill de Blasio.
He said he supported her stance on reducing mass incarceration and her plan to redirect police funds to social services. “This is kind of crazy for me!” Mr. Raschilla laughed about the chance encounter with the candidate.
Ms. Wiley’s endorsements from other politicians he supports, such as Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, were also a plus, Mr. Raschilla said.
For Gary K. Lewis, 79, an Upper West Side resident and former member of the doo-wop group the Cadillacs, voting for Ms. Wiley was a family affair involving himself, his wife, their children and their children’s spouses.
“She got six votes out of this family,” Mr. Lewis said, adding that he liked Ms. Wiley’s emphasis on sending mental health professionals to deal with mental health crises, rather than the police.
Ms. Wiley, accompanied by Assembly Member Carmen De La Rosa, met later with voters outside a pharmacy in Washington Heights, where people asked about her plans for the city’s recovery. At Jacob K. Javits Playground, she paused to cheer on children playing basketball.
Ms. Wiley doubled down on her criticisms of Eric Adams’ comments characterizing the alliance between Andrew Yang and Kathryn Garcia as racist, calling those remarks “insensitive.”
“This is not about anything other than making sure New Yorkers coming out to vote tomorrow have trust in our voting system,” she said.
Ms. Wiley said that she would make sure all New Yorkers would be included in the city’s post-Covid recovery. She spoke of the urgency of ending evictions and building affordable housing.
“This is a city where we all must recover,” Ms. Wiley said. “But we have a long history of not recovering everyone in crisis, and that’s not recovery. Here we have the opportunity to make sure every single New Yorker can raise a family and have a decent quality of life.”
When the crowd of onlookers and supporters had begun to thin out, Ms. Wiley and Ms. De La Rosa beat the heat in classic summer fashion — by running through the playground fountain.
At a news conference later in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, Ms. Wiley said that in the closing days, her campaign was focusing on neighborhoods with large numbers of Black and Latino voters.
She again praised the city’s ranked-choice voting system. “I want New Yorkers to fill all five bubbles,” she said.
Sounding, as he often does, like New York City’s family therapist, the talk-show host Brian Lehrer summoned New York’s leading mayoral candidates on Monday to his virtual living room, where he asked each for a two-minute, uninterrupted “elevator pitch.”
Then, he probed. Mr. Lehrer, a longtime presence on WNYC, explained to each contender “the tensions” holding back their potential supporters, offering them one last chance to straighten out misunderstandings.
Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president and a former police officer, rose to front-runner status on a crime-fighting pledge (Elevator pitch: “I can make the city both safe and fair”). Mr. Lehrer asked about fears that he would reverse reforms aimed at discriminatory policing.
“I never stated that I was going to increase stop-and-frisk,” Mr. Adams said. “That’s a talking point of Maya Wiley.”
Ms. Wiley, a civil-rights lawyer and former counsel to Mayor Bill de Blasio (Elevator pitch: “Not just recovery from Covid but from what was broken before”), has cited Mr. Adams’s (limited) support of stop-and-frisk. She rejected concerns, summarized by Mr. Lehrer, that her emphasis on police reform, in turn, leaves her without a plan to reduce crime “on Day 1.”
“As a woman, I know what it’s like to fear crime and police violence,” she said. “It’s simply a lie that we have to choose between the two.” Her plan to “expand public safety,” she added, would be immediate, “not fuzzy,” with better mental-health response and tighter police focus on serious crimes.
There were also relationship issues, or their political equivalent: endorsements.
Andrew Yang (Elevator pitch: “Family man who just wants to make things work”) did not exactly reject Mr. Lehrer’s premise that he appears to be “wooing a more conservative crowd.” But Mr. Yang — the only candidate to embrace an endorsement by a police union — was careful to clarify that the captains’ union backing him is “not the group that endorsed Trump,” the Police Benevolent Association.
There were reminders that relationships can be complicated. Kathryn Garcia, a former sanitation commissioner (Elevator pitch: “The only candidate who can actually deliver”) has campaigned lately with Mr. Yang, but she reassured listeners that “I have not endorsed Andrew Yang.”
And, coaxed by Mr. Lehrer, candidates who got “timeouts” during the campaign tried to help voters see their way past scandals.
Scott M. Stringer, the city comptroller (Elevator pitch: “Ready on Day 1”), said that “further discussion about unsubstantiated charges” of sexual misconduct against him would follow the election. Voters open to “justice and fairness,” he said, could choose his 30-year record over those of other progressives with less experience — or, he added in a dig at Ms. Wiley’s City Hall stint, with “de Blasio experience.”
This is the first time New Yorkers have been able to vote early in a mayoral primary, and experts said the turnout was pretty good.
According to the city’s Board of Elections, 191,197 New Yorkers came to the polls during the early voting period, which began June 12 and ended on Sunday.
“It was slow and steady,” said Bruce Gyory, a veteran Democratic strategist who has closely studied the city’s electorate. “It wasn’t like the presidential election with lines around the corner.”
The city could be on track to see more than 800,000 Democrats vote in the mayoral primary — more than in the last competitive race in 2013, Mr. Gyory said. That includes early voting, absentee ballots and those who vote in person on Primary Day.
The city’s Board of Elections has received about 220,000 requests for absentee ballots, and in a closely fought race like this one, those votes could make a difference. As of Monday, more than 82,000 people had filled out and returned their absentee ballots.
If 300,000 Democrats vote early or by absentee ballot, then 500,000 voters on Primary Day would bring the total past 800,000 voters. Any figure above 850,000 would be considered a “healthy turnout” and one million would be impressive, Mr. Gyory said.
“My own sense is I think it’s going to cross 850,000,” he said, though he noted that he was watching weather forecasts for rain on Tuesday, which could hinder turnout.
If turnout is high, that could help someone like Andrew Yang, the 2020 presidential candidate, who is courting new and disengaged voters. One of Mr. Yang’s campaign managers, Chris Coffey, said he was pleased by signs of higher turnout in neighborhoods like Sunset Park, in Brooklyn, where turnout has historically been low.
“We’ve seen lots of irregular voters showing up and lots of neighborhoods showing up in large numbers that don’t usually show up,” Mr. Coffey said.
One television advertisement hails Eric Adams’s experience as a police officer. Another touts Andrew Yang’s cash relief plans.
As New York City Democrats vote in a mayoral primary that will almost certainly decide who wins the general election in November, voters have been inundated with mailings, and ads on TV, radio and the internet.
As usual, many of those ads come from the candidates’ campaigns. But, in a New York City first, a substantial amount of the advertising is being financed by so-called super PACs backing individual candidates.
In 2013, the last time there was a mayoral election without an incumbent, candidate-specific super PACs were not involved in the race. This year, seven of the top eight Democrats running have them. And billionaires have provided much of the money.
These barely regulated expenditures threaten to undermine the city’s campaign finance system, which is designed to temper wealthy donors’ influence by using public funds to match small donations.
At least 14 people identified as billionaires by Forbes magazine have donated to mayoral-related super PACs. Their money has generally gone to three candidates with more moderate views and a focus on tamping down on crime and disorder: Mr. Adams, the Brooklyn borough president; Mr. Yang, a former presidential candidate; and Raymond J. McGuire, a former Wall Street executive. Mr. Adams and Mr. Yang are in the top tier of candidates, while Mr. McGuire has been at the bottom of the pack.
Together, billionaires have plowed more than $16 million this year into super PACs involved in the race, with half of that benefiting those three candidates.
Overall, super PAC spending in the race has topped $24 million, according to the city’s Campaign Finance Board. And three of the top six spenders on TV, digital and radio advertising in the race are super PACs.
“Now in 2021, New York City has a term-limited Democratic incumbent with no heir apparent, which has led to a wide open mayoral race run with campaigns run by consultants with deep experience using candidate super PACs in federal campaigns,” said John Kaehny, the executive director of Reinvent Albany.