Heard Around Town

Andrew Yang, political outsiders, want to get rid of partisan primaries in NYC

Sal Albanese and others are gathering signatures for the Final Five Voting NYC campaign for a single open primary.

Former mayoral candidates Andrew Yang and Sal Albanese speak at the Final Five Voting NYC launch event on Jan. 10, 2023 in Midtown Manhattan

Former mayoral candidates Andrew Yang and Sal Albanese speak at the Final Five Voting NYC launch event on Jan. 10, 2023 in Midtown Manhattan Jeff Coltin/City & State.

While Democrats and Republicans alike were in Albany for the State of the State, some mostly moderate, anti-party revolutionaries met in the basement of the Hunt & Fish Club in Midtown Manhattan to launch an ambitious campaign: get rid of partisan primaries and partisan general elections in New York City. Final Five Voting NYC is hoping to gather 50,000 valid signatures (or really, double that number for a cushion) so they can get a question on the ballot this November. Then convince a majority of voters to approve a new system for city elections. There would be a single, open primary where anybody can vote, and then the top five vote-getters, regardless of party affiliation, move on to the November general, with ranked-choice voting in effect. 

Supporters say it’s a way to minimize political extremism, and play to the median voter. Nevada voters just narrowly approved the system, and versions are in effect in Alaska, Washington and California. The Daily News Editorial Board just endorsed the idea. But even if city voters just approved RCV in 2019, passing Final Five seems nearly impossible. The party organizations would hate it, and so would most of the elected officials elected with their support. If the campaign picks up any steam, expect them, and allies like labor unions, to spend against it. 

For now, the movement is quite fringey. There were no elected officials at the launch party Tuesday night, and the room was filled with outsiders and also-rans including former mayoral candidates Sal Albanese, who chairs the organization, and Andrew Yang. But Yang already has an idea for a TV ad to win support: “A New York firefighter looking straight into camera saying ‘I have run into buildings to save my fellow New Yorkers. I’m an independent and I cannot vote for who our next leaders are going to be.’”

They’ll need more help if they want to get on TV. New Yorkers for Competitive Elections is registered as a ballot issue committee with the state Board of Elections. While fundraising filings due next week may show more, they had only raised $3,565 through the middle of 2022. 

But the Final Five campaign in Nevada was well funded by big givers, including frequent New York megadonor Ken Griffin. And Yang – whose mayoral candidacy got major support from Griffin – is optimistic about their chances if more money comes in. “If we have the resources to get this message out and make this case, we will win,” he said. “And I cannot fucking wait.”