The major 2021 mayoral contenders

Andrew Yang
Andrew Yang
Ben Von Klemperer/Shutterstock
Andrew Yang filed paperwork to run for mayor.

The major 2021 mayoral contenders

What you need to know about the likely candidates for NYC’s top elected office.
December 31, 2020

It’s finally 2021, the year when New Yorkers will elect their next mayor, and the field for the June Democratic primary is solidifying.

But as candidates like former presidential candidate Andrew Yang are entering the race, others have already left it. Fresh off an unsuccessful reelection battle, former Rep. Max Rose was considering campaigning for mayor, but decided against it. Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. could’ve been a contender – but announced he wouldn’t be running. And many saw New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson as the next mayor – until he, too, dropped out

Here are some fast facts about the likely 2021 New York City contenders, in alphabetical order.

Eric Adams

Born: 1960

Home: Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn

Current job: Brooklyn borough president

Previous jobs: State senator, NYPD officer

Fundraising: $2.59 million as of July 2020

Campaign launched? Yes, in November 2020, but he’s been openly running for years.

Why he’ll win: Adams has the political connections and the money, and is appealing to outer-borough voters with his law enforcement credentials and pragmatic politics.

Why he won’t: Adams is hard to define politically, and has courted controversy with comments on topics like gentrification and gun rights. 

Shaun Donovan

Born: 1966

Home: Boerum Hill, Brooklyn

Latest job: Senior strategist to the president of Harvard University

Previous jobs: Budget director for President Barack Obama, U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, New York City Housing Preservation and Development commissioner under Bloomberg 

Fundraising: $662,000 as of July 2020

Campaign launched? Yes, in December 2020, after filing to run in January 2020.

Why he’ll win: Obama trusted him for eight years, and he’s got real budgetary and housing credentials. 

Why he won’t: Donovan has been a behind-the-scenes guy, and is about as exciting as dry toast.

Kathryn Garcia

Born: 1970

Home: Park Slope, Brooklyn

Latest job: New York City Sanitation Commissioner under Mayor Bill de Blasio

Previous jobs: COVID-19 food czar, interim chair of NYCHA, COO of the Department of Environmental Protection

Fundraising: Hasn’t filed a disclosure yet

Campaign launched? Yes, in December 2020, after filing to run in September 2020.

Why she’ll win: If she can win the hearts of the city’s garbage haulers, she can win over anyone.

Why she won’t: It’s her first foray into politics, and the association with de Blasio might not help as she introduces herself to voters.

Zach Iscol

Born: 1978

Home: NoHo, Manhattan

Latest job: Founder and CEO of Grid North Group, a digital media company

Previous jobs: Deputy director of the Javits medical center, co-founder and chair of the Headstrong Project, officer in the U.S. Marine Corps

Fundraising: Hasn’t filed a disclosure yet, but says he had $250,000 in pledged contributions when he launched his campaign.

Campaign launched? Yes, in October 2020.

Why he’ll win: Wealthy military vet married to a glamorous wife? Sounds Kennedyesque.

Why he won’t: He’s unknown in the political world, and seems to lack a clear rationale for running.

Ray McGuire

Born: 1957

Home: Upper West Side, Manhattan

Latest job: Vice chair, Citigroup

Previous jobs: Global co-head of mergers and acquisitions at Morgan Stanley, mergers and acquisitions at Merrill Lynch

Fundraising: Hasn’t filed a disclosure yet, but claims to have raised more than $2.3 million as of December.

Campaign launched? Yes, in December 2020.

Why he’ll win: He’s the proudly capitalist money manager that some New Yorkers have been eager to get back to since former Mayor Michael Bloomberg left office.

Why he won’t: Wall Street is the enemy to many Democratic primary voters. Just look at Bloomberg’s presidential run.

Carlos Menchaca

Born: 1980

Home: Red Hook, Brooklyn

Current job: New York City Council member

Previous jobs: LGBT and HIV community liaison to former City Council Speaker Christine Quinn, budget coordinator to former Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz

Fundraising: Hasn’t filed a disclosure yet

Campaign launched? Yes, in October 2020.

Why he’ll win: He’s a person of color running hard to the left on a record of progressive purity – a formula that’s been working lately.

Why he won’t: He has made more enemies than friends in seven years in the council, and New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer has all the momentum.

Dianne Morales

Born: 1967

Home: Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn

Latest job: Executive Director and CEO of Phipps Neighborhoods, a social services nonprofit

Previous jobs: Executive director of The Door, chief of operations and implementation at the New York City Department of Education

Fundraising: $157,000 as of July 2020

Campaign launched? She held a kickoff event in November 2020, but she’s been openly running since July 2019.

Why she’ll win: Her unapologetically progressive platform and Afro-Latina identity speak to the political moment.

Why she won’t: She’s new to politics and will have a hard time raising the money necessary to get her name out.

Scott Stringer

Born: 1960

Home: Financial District, Manhattan

Current job: New York City comptroller

Previous jobs: Manhattan borough president, assembly member

Fundraising: $2.79 million as of July 2020

Campaign launched? Yes, in September 2020.

Why he’ll win: Stringer is a political animal, with citywide executive experience, Upper West Side establishment credentials, a progressive track record and endorsements from exciting insurgents.

Why he won’t: Stringer doesn’t fit the mold of the progressive political movement he’s appealing to, and lacks the charisma of his main competitors.

Loree Sutton

Born: 1959

Home: Financial District, Manhattan

Latest job: New York City Veterans’ Services commissioner under de Blasio

Previous jobs: Brigadier general in the U.S. Army, psychiatrist

Fundraising: $157,000 as of July 2020

Campaign launched? Yes, in November 2019.

Why she’ll win: “It takes a general” is a great campaign slogan – and who isn’t impressed by an M.D. psychiatrist?

Why she won’t: She’s running as a centrist, which probably won’t excite the Democratic electorate.

Maya Wiley

Born: 1964

Home: Ditmas Park, Brooklyn

Latest job: Senior vice president of social justice and professor of urban policy at The New School

Previous jobs: MSNBC legal analyst, Civilian Complaint Review Board chair, counsel to Mayor Bill de Blasio

Fundraising: Hasn’t filed a disclosure yet

Campaign launched? Yes, in October 2020.

Why she’ll win: She’s a charismatic #resistance star with police reform credentials and historic potential.

Why she won’t: The first-time candidate worked closely with de Blasio in a year when people are expected to be looking for an antidote. 

Andrew Yang

Born: 1975

Home: Hell’s Kitchen, Manhattan

Current job: Founder of Humanity Forward, a nonprofit promoting a universal basic income

Previous jobs: Democratic presidential candidate, founder and CEO of Venture for AmericaCEO of Manhattan Prep 

Fundraising: Hasn’t filed a disclosure yet

Campaign launched? No, but filed to run in December 2020.

Why he’ll win: Yang is a talented communicator with a regular-guy shtick, who will be talking about the popular idea of giving every New Yorker money every month.

Why he won’t: Yang is a total newcomer with limited knowledge and connections in city politics, who won’t have the benefit of low expectations anymore, like he did in his presidential run.

Other New Yorkers who have filed with the Campaign Finance Board to run for mayor but are unlikely to impact the race include: Art Chang, Kevin Coenen, Edward Cullen, Thomas Downs, Vitaly Filipchenko, Cleopatra Fitzgerald, Aaron Foldenauer, Quanda Francis, Garry Guerrier, Miguel Hernandez, Max Kaplan, Christopher Krietchman, Abbey Laurel-Smith, Grady O’Bryant, William Pepitone, Cardon Pompey, Paperboy Prince, Julia Reaves, Stephen Seely, Ahsan Syed, Joycelyn Taylor and Isaac Wright Jr.

Jeff Coltin
is a senior reporter at City & State. He covers New York City Hall.