New York City

Mayoral candidates competing for second place

With Diaz and Johnson out, there are opportunities for other candidates.

Campaign Confidential is a weekly newsletter that goes out on Wednesdays.

Campaign Confidential is a weekly newsletter that goes out on Wednesdays. Alex Law/City & State

7 months until the 2021 Democratic primaries

Welcome to City & State’s Campaign Confidential newsletter, where Senior Reporter Jeff Coltin is covering the run-up to New York City’s hugely consequential 2021 municipal elections for mayor, City Council and more.

Weekly, on Tuesdays. Sign up here.

Competing for second place

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams’ occasionally awkward mayoral launch on Zoom lacked the endorsement firepower of certain opponents, but he still got a few day one supporters, including City Council Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo – notable, since she probably would have been Team Corey had City Council Speaker Corey Johnson officially jumped in the race, given their close personal relationship. City Comptroller Scott Stringer’s campaign is likely benefiting most from Johnson’s absence. (Would RWDSU have backed Stringer early if Corey were running? Doubtful.) But Cumbo’s endorsement is a good reminder that being someone’s second choice can pay off. And that’s more true now than ever in the city’s first ranked-choice voting election – in which second picks could swing the race. And political support doesn’t always follow straight lines. Not every Stringer voter is going to have Maya Wiley as their No. 2.

While Cumbo is cool, the entire borough of the Bronx is cooler. Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, brand new Bronx boss Jamaal Bailey and countless other Bronxites were all-in for Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. until he dropped out of the mayoral race in January. That’s why you saw four major mayoral contenders in Co-op City on Saturday for a rally backing shoo-in City Council candidate Kevin Riley, who’s close to Heastie. Stringer, Wiley, Shaun Donovan and Ray McGuire, who has been keeping a low profile lately, showed up, hoping to be the Bronx’s post-Diaz backup plan. A party insider says “everybody has a fair shot,” and no one candidate has the upper hand right now. Bailey’s going to try to unify the borough behind one candidate, but that’s going to be hard without a native son like Rubencito.

And don’t forget: Diaz was probably Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s favorite candidate. Is he looking for his second choice too? Maybe not, says a Bronx source. The governor is secure. “He’s the ONE guy who doesn’t have to make an endorsement.”

By the numbers

$43.75

The amount Council Member Stephen Levin could make if he reported his endorsed mayoral candidate, Maya Wiley, for abusing a bogus parking placard under his proposed bill. But given the online uproar after Wiley showed off her park-here-free card from a Harlem pastor, she probably learned her lesson.

JVB 4 BP 2?

Armed with an endorsement from Jumaane Williams, Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer was going to be a top-tier candidate for Queens borough president before dropping out in January. Now, multiple sources say he’s planning a challenge to incoming BP Donovan Richards in the June 2021 primary. Richards would be an extremely tough target – and he already beat a western Queens progressive in Costa Constantinides this year. But a certain percentage of lefty Queens voters would just as soon vote for Donald Trump as they would a county-backed candidate, and the term-limited Van Bramer is eager to be back on the ballot.

The Right friends

The first rule of the New York Hispanic Clergy Organization, led by Council Member Rubén Díaz Sr.? “We oppose same-sex marriage.” So the weekly rant by the Trump-voting Díaz raised more than its usual share of eyebrows when he said Eric Adams would be meeting with the group one day after his campaign kickoff. But after it became public, Adams pulled out, with a spox saying he “strongly disagrees” with the reverend’s controversial views. Turns out Adams had been invited by 2013 Democratic mayoral candidate Erick Salgado, and didn’t realize it was Díaz’s group. This isn’t to say Adams isn’t appealing to the right. Republican Council Member Eric Ulrich called Adams the “best man for the job” on Instagram. It’s not an official endorsement, Ulrich said when asked, but Adams is “a good friend of mine and I think he’d make a great mayor.”

SHWG members support Quart

Three former Albany legislative staffers who co-led the Sexual Harassment Working Group – Elizabeth Crothers, Leah Hebert, and Rita Pasarell – and one of their top elected allies, outgoing Assembly Member Aravella Simotas, are endorsing Dan Quart for Manhattan district attorney. Quart, an Assembly member and civil litigator, helped the group get the first public hearings on sexual harassment in a generation in 2019, and the endorsers like his plan for sexual assault victims that would hold employers and institutions accountable. “He realized and understood the impact that victims have in being able to craft those narratives and educate lawmakers and policymakers on what reforms needed to happen,” Hebert exclusively told City & State. Of course, this comes the week after seven accusers of Harvey Weinstein endorsed Quart opponent, Lucy Lang – something victim advocate Marissa Hoechstetter called out as being more Hollywood PR than grassroots support.

RCV backlash

Politico New York on ranked-choice voting: “Come next year, New Yorkers will be able to rank up to five people in city primaries. If none receives more than 50 percent, the last-place finisher is disqualified and voters who picked that person will have their next choice counted. The rankings continue until a winner is declared.”

Politically moderate Black and Latino elected officials on ranked-choice voting: “No.”

Endorsement Watch

Jenny Low, a top City Council staffer, shored up her establishment credentials in the crowded race to replace City Council Member Margaret Chin with endorsements from Reps. Nydia Velázquez and Carolyn Maloney … Velázquez is also endorsing Shekar Krishnan for City Council in Queens … former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara endorsed Alvin Bragg for Manhattan district attorney … the West Side Democrats endorsed Scott Stringer for mayor … former gubernatorial candidate Cynthia Nixon, state Sen. Julia Salazar and Assembly Member Ron Kim endorsed Moumita Ahmed for City Council.

Poll Sight

Almost 6 in 10 political insiders think New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio has bungled the coronavirus pandemic – and they have an even worse view of how he has handled the city’s public schools over the past eight months, according to the latest City & State/Honan Strategy Group survey.

Poll respondents also think the budget and the coronavirus are the two most important issues facing the city today. You can see the whole poll here, and see if insiders think things are going to get as bad as they were in the 1970s.

How do you rate Mayor de Blasio's response to the Coronavirus pandemic overall?
Alex Law/City & State

What are the two most important issues facing New York City today?
Alex Law/City & State

Staffing Up

Pragya Nandini, former campaign manager for Adem Bunkeddeko’s House race, is deputy campaign manager for Eric Adams’ mayoral campaign … Katie Moore, formerly of the New York Hotel and Motel Trades Council, Nathan Smith of Red Horse Strategies and Evan Thies of Pythia Public are also on Adams’ campaign … Glomani Bravo-Lopez is joining Zach Iscol’s mayoral campaign as policy and political director… BerlinRosen is consulting on Brad Lander’s city comptroller campaign … The Parkside Group is on Brian Benjamin’s comptroller campaign … Lupe Todd-Medina is doing comms for Lindsey Boylan’s Manhattan borough president campaign … Patrick B. Jenkins & Associates is consulting on Kevin Riley’s City Council campaign … Dynamic SRG is fundraising for Neeta Jain’s City Council campaign.

Got tips? Email JColtin@CityandStateNY.com or dm me @JCColtin

District Data

District 15 Map
Alex Law/City & State

City Council District 15, in the center of the Bronx, covering neighborhoods including Belmont, West Farms and Fordham

Current council member: Ritchie Torres, who’s expected to resign on Jan. 1 after being elected to the House of Representatives

2010 census demographics: 66.3% Hispanic, 24.9% Black, 4.9% white, 2.3% Asian

Housing: 93.1% renter-occupied, 6.9% owner-occupied

2013 primary election results: Torres: 36.1%, Joel Rivera: 21.4%, Cynthia Thompkins: 21%, Albert Alvarez: 9%, Raquel Batista: 7.4%, Joel Bauza: 5.1%

2017 primary election results: Torres wins unopposed

Who’s running: Ischia Bravo, Elisa Crespo, Oswald Feliz, Latchmi Gopal, John Sanchez, Altagracia Soldevilla. Crespo, an aide to the BP who is hoping to be the first transgender member of the City Council, has momentum in the race after picking up a big endorsement from Julian Sepúlveda, a former candidate in the race. But both Bravo and Sanchez are well connected as community board district managers, and Sanchez is making some waves with his pro-development stances. A special election will likely be held in March.

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