Campaigns & Elections

Myrie starts exploratory committee to challenge Adams for mayor

The state senator is the latest politico to express interest in mounting a challenge.

State Sen. Zellnor Myrie speaks at a press conference on June 4, 2020.

State Sen. Zellnor Myrie speaks at a press conference on June 4, 2020. Scott Heins/Getty Images

State Sen. Zellnor Myrie is edging closer to challenging Eric Adams for New York City mayor in what is shaping up to be a fierce reelection bid for Adams. 

In a statement provided to City & State, Myrie said his conversations with New Yorkers have determined they’re “tired of the showmanship,” prompting a challenge. 

“What people want to see are results,” he continued. “New Yorkers want to see their government working relentlessly to make this city affordable, safe and livable, and that’s why I’m taking the first steps to explore a race for Mayor.” 

Those steps involve opening an exploratory committee and raising money beginning Wednesday. 

The announcement, first reported by the New York Times on Wednesday, ends months of speculation over whether Myrie – a staunch liberal who has made voting rights, affordable housing and criminal justice reform cornerstones of his political career – would enter the contest against a well-funded Adams. 

But Adams’ travails, from an FBI investigation into his 2021 campaign to a lawsuit alleging sexual assault, have weakened the city’s second Black mayor, leading to sagging poll numbers while inviting a slew of politicos to express interest in mounting a challenge. 

Among them is former city Comptroller Scott Stringer, who launched an exploratory committee earlier this year. They also include state Sen. Jessica Ramos, a Queens Democrat, who shares the same political lane as Myrie. 

Whether Myrie’s brand of progressive politics will work outside liberal pockets of the city remains to be seen. Hank Sheinkopf, a Democratic strategist, told City & State that Myrie will have to build a citywide coalition and lean on issues New Yorkers care about. 

“Can he build a coalition that reflects the city itself, which is likely what he thinks it is,” Sheinkopf said. “This is not a left-wing city where people will necessarily agree with the policy positions taken in Albany, especially if the streets continue to deteriorate with homeless and more chaos. He’d be in for a surprise.” 

Sheinkopf added that Myrie might stand a chance at winning if he focused squarely on the issues impacting the Adams campaign, particularly the migrant crisis that has engulfed much of the mayor’s time in office. Myrie has criticized the “tone and tenor” of Adams’ response to the influx of migrants.

“You can only hold so many press conferences asking the federal government to do something that they’re not going to do,” Myrie told the FAQNYC podcast last year. “And in the greatest city in the world, we shouldn’t be pleading on this issue. I really think it is in our DNA to lead in this instance. And leadership requires communication that does not increase the temperature in the room, but brings it down so that cooler heads can prevail.“

The Adams campaign, when asked to comment on Myrie’s interest in the mayor’s seat, referred City & State to comments made by Brooklyn Democratic Party chair Rodneyse Bichotte Hermelyn who praised Adams’ tenure at City Hall.  

“Mayor Adams has brought down crime on our streets and raised test scores in our schools while creating more jobs than New York has ever had, raising wages for hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers and lowering the Black unemployment rate — all while handling multiple crises, from COVID to migrants,” Hermelyn said in her statement. “And that is why New Yorkers — especially working class New Yorkers — will be behind him for mayor.” 

Myrie will have to catch up quick on the fundraising front, as Adams has been hitting up deep-pocketed donors in the legal and real estate industry for cash, according to his latest filings. Campaign fundraising figures show Adams has so far raised nearly $3 million. Bloomberg News reported in November that Myrie has $1 million in commitments ready to use should he mount a challenge.

It’s unclear if any of those contributions are coming from real estate interests, a key industry Myrie took jabs at when he first won his Senate seat by defeating Adams’ ally Jesse Hamilton, a member of the defunct Independent Democratic Conference. Monica Klein, a spokesperson for Myrie, did not respond to a request for comment. 

Myrie, a first-generation Brooklynite, was part of a wave of left-leaning candidates who won their primary in New York in a referendum against the IDC. Myrie’s Senate district — which covers areas of Park Slope, Crowns Heights and Lefferts Gardens — had once been represented by Adams when he was in the state Senate. 

Since his win, Myrie has become a darling among progressives, joining in Black Lives Matter protests where he was pepper sprayed and arrested by police in May 2020 despite telling the officer he was a duly elected lawmaker. He later sued the city in federal court over the arrest and received a $15,001 settlement.