Your guide to the NYC mayoral primary election

By Meg Wagner, Melissa Macaya, Melissa Mahtani and Mike Hayes, CNN

Updated 9:03 a.m. ET, June 23, 2021
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1:02 p.m. ET, June 22, 2021

Meet the 13 Democrats running in NYC's mayoral primary

From CNN's Rachel Janfaza and Gregory Krieg

AP/Getty
AP/Getty

Thirteen Democrats are running in the New York City mayoral primaries today, according to the New York City Board of Elections

Here's who will be on the primary ballots for the ranked-choice vote:

  • Eric Adams: A retired former captain in the New York Police Department, Adams is a vocal advocate of the NYPD and is running on a platform that includes stepped-up policing. The former officer has been critical of the department, however, calling out racism in the organization. Adams has been a fixture on the New York political scene for decades — making many friends and enemies along the way – and has argued that he is the candidate best-equipped to fight a surge in violent crime. The former New York state senator is running to be the second Black mayor in New York City history. He has support from a number of major unions and local leaders, including Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr.
  • Art Chang: The technologist and entrepreneur started 12 small businesses in New York City and co-created an initiative called "NYC Votes" to promote citywide democracy. Chang would like to implement universal child care, help Broadway rebound and revamp government technology. The son of Korean immigrants, he co-founded the City University of New York (CUNY) Technology Apprenticeship Program and served on the New York City Campaign Finance Board as well as the board of directors at the Brooklyn Public Library. Chang would be the city's first Asian American mayor.
  • Shaun Donovan: A former Obama administration Cabinet member, Donovan served as secretary of Housing and Urban Development during the housing market crisis of 2008, and later as director of the Office of Management and Budget. He's running on a platform to build "15-minute neighborhoods," a plan that seeks to provide New Yorkers with schools, transportation and food within 15 minutes of their homes. Prior to his time in the Obama administration, Donovan was commissioner of New York City's Department of Housing Preservation and Development under former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg. Donovan has been criticized by his rivals over an independent expenditure group almost entirely funded by his father.
  • Aaron Foldenauer: An attorney who has practiced employment litigation and election law, Foldenauer's platform seeks to rebuild New York City's economy with a focus on small business and property owners. Foldenauer hopes to revamp New York City tourism, has a plan for healthy eating and would like to create a texting service for subway riders to report incidents. Foldenauer ran for New York City Council in Lower Manhattan but lost in 2017.
  • Kathryn Garcia: As commissioner of New York City's Sanitation Department, Garcia oversaw a staff of 10,000 and managed the city's trash collection, water distribution and snow removal. Running on a platform that centers on New York City's health and safety, Garcia says she would bring her crisis management skills and experience with local systems to City Hall. Garcia led New York City's emergency food program at the start of the coronavirus pandemic and served as incident commander during Hurricane Sandy. She was endorsed in May by the New York Times editorial board, which wrote that she "best understands how to get New York back on its feet and has the temperament and the experience to do so." Garcia, if elected, would be the city's first female mayor.
  • Raymond McGuire: The former investment banker and Citigroup executive's campaign centers on fueling an economic rebound. His platform includes a job accelerator to bring back 50,000 jobs in New York City. McGuire, a Black man, says his lived experience qualifies him to enact renewed public safety and justice policy in New York City. Raised by a single mother in Dayton, Ohio, McGuire previously served on the boards of Citi Foundation, the philanthropic arm of Citigroup, and De La Salle Academy, a small private school in New York City. McGuire is not participating in the city's generous matching funds program.
  • Dianne Morales: As a former nonprofit executive and New York City public school teacher, Morales wants to guarantee housing for New York City residents and desegregate the city's public schools and has called to "defund the police; fund the people." A single mother, Morales has worked to help build communities of support for young people, including homeless youth. The Brooklyn-raised daughter of Puerto Rican parents, Morales would be the city's first Afro-Latina mayor. Her campaign, though, has recently been hobbled by infighting among staff and the departure of her campaign manager. If elected, Morales would be the city's first female mayor.
  • Paperboy Love Prince: Prince, a nonbinary rapper, wants to give New Yorkers $2,000 a month in universal basic income, proposes three-and-a-half-day work weeks and health care for all, seeks to eradicate homelessness and wants to turn the New York Police Department into a "love team." Prince ran for Congress in New York's 7th District last year but lost in the primary to 14-term-incumbent Nydia Velázquez.
  • Scott Stringer: The New York City comptroller's campaign emphasizes his experience with citywide government. Serving as comptroller since 2013, Stringer is responsible for the Big Apple's finances and has managed the city's five public pension funds. Before that, Stringer served as a New York state assemblyman and Manhattan borough president. His platform includes early childhood education and the creation of a "chief health officer" to focus on public health. A graduate of New York City Public Schools and the CUNY system, Stringer got his start in politics as an aide to Jerry Nadler, who was a New York State assembly member at the time. In April, Stringer was accused of sexual harassment by a former political ally. He has denied the allegations, which led some prominent endorsers to withdraw their support. He has retained the backing of a number of high-profile labor unions.
  • Joycelyn Taylor: Taylor, a Brooklyn native who grew up in public housing, is running on a platform to expand affordable public housing and "decriminalize poverty." As a businesswoman who started a general contracting firm, Taylor built a nonprofit to help provide women- and minority-owned businesses access to opportunity, citywide and state agencies, and elected officials. She also supports the legalization of recreational marijuana. If elected, she would be the city's first female mayor.
  • Maya Wiley: Wiley, a longtime civil rights attorney and activist, wants to create a "New Deal" for New York that would focus on centering communities of color with a $10 billion investment in infrastructure, stimulus and jobs programs, according to her platform. She is also pushing a "community first" plan to combat climate change and proposing a transformation of the NYPD. Wiley formerly served as counsel to outgoing Mayor Bill de Blasio and previously worked with both the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund and the American Civil Liberties Union. She has been endorsed by New York's Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, a member of the House Democratic leadership, and enjoys the support of one of the city's largest unions. Wiley would be the city's first female mayor if elected.
  • Isaac Wright Jr.: Wright is running on a platform that centers on working class communities with plans to increase the minimum wage and expand affordable housing with opportunities for homeownership for all New York City residents. After being wrongfully convicted and incarcerated, Wright pursued his law degree and became an attorney. He is also the executive producer of ABC's "For Life," a fictionalized TV show based on his life story.
  • Andrew Yang: The lively former presidential candidate has campaigned on a promise to lift the city out of its pandemic haze. He wants to give some low-income New York city residents a basic income, providing those who need it most with direct cash payments of about $2,000 each year. The son of Taiwanese immigrants, Yang worked as a lawyer before launching a number of startups focused on health care and education. He is viewed as one of the front-runners in the Democratic primary, despite facing criticism for not having previously voted in a mayoral election and questions over whether he has the experience to take on the job. Yang would, if elected, become the city's first Asian American mayor.

Read more about the candidates here.

12:22 p.m. ET, June 22, 2021

How some New York City voters are reacting to casting their first ranked-choice ballots

From CNN's Alyssa Kraus

CNN’s Athena Jones was live from a New York City polling site, where she talked to about how voters feel about ranked-choice voting, the newly implemented system where voters rank their top five choices in order of preference instead of selecting one candidate. 

Almost three-quarters of New York City voters picked ranked-choice voting for primaries and special elections in a 2019 referendum. Currently, New York City is the largest jurisdiction in the country to use this voting method, Jones reported.

Here’s what some voters had to say:

New York City voter Becky Curtis said she ranked five candidates for mayor, adding that it provided an opportunity to vote for several female candidates. 

“Was it confusing? Well, I don't think it was confusing. I did have to read and understand what it was all about,” Curtis said. “Do I like it? I'm not sure if I like it or I don't like it, but it did give me the chance to vote for a lot of women.”

Another voter highlighted the need to prepare the five choices before heading to the polls.

“You had to come prepared knowing what rank you had or you would be there all day,” the voter said. “But once you have a list with you, it is not hard.”

According to Jones, there have been four clear front-runners among voters surveyed on the Upper West Side: Eric Adams, Kathryn Garcia, Maya Wiley and Andrew Yang. However, it could be weeks before a candidate is declared the winner

Watch CNN's reporting from the ground:

11:55 a.m. ET, June 22, 2021

These are three key issues to look for in this election, according to a former NYC official

A former New York City official said there are three key issues emerging in the city's mayoral race: Crime, policing and the economy as people start to recover from the pandemic.

Several of the candidates have talked about these issues during their campaign, some even making them central parts of their platforms.

"I think the race is come down to the issue of crime and what people are going to do about it, but also how the police behave when they are fighting crime, Christine Quinn, former NYC City Council speaker, told CNN on Tuesday. "So we see both issues front and center, police abuse also a national issue and crime on the rise which, as you said, is a national issue."

Homicides in New York are up 53% over the last two years and shootings up by more than 100%. Democrats have told pollsters that crime and public safety are their top concerns by a wide margin.

This gives a boost to candidate Eric Adams, a former state senator who spent 22 years in the New York Police Department before going into politics.

On the other side of the issue, democratic candidate Maya Wiley is calling for sharp cuts to the NYPD budget and the creation of an all-civilian board to oversee the department.

Republican candidate Fernando Mateo says he's running in part to reduce crime and to combat bureaucracy and high taxes, and the other GOP candidate, Curtis Sliwa, says he wants to "refund the police."

"I think the third issue is the economy and the post-pandemic comeback and is the comeback going to be more inclusive of people of color and women than the economy in New York was prior to the pandemic," Quinn said about another prominent campaign point.

Democratic candidate Aaron Foldenauer's platform seeks to rebuild New York City's economy with a focus on small business and property owners and former investment banker and Democratic candidate Raymond McGuire is proposing a plan to bring 50,000 jobs in New York City.

Another Democratic candidate, Joycelyn Taylor, said she is running to expand affordable public housing and "decriminalize poverty." Taylor built a nonprofit to help provide women- and minority-owned businesses access to opportunity, citywide and state agencies and elected officials.

11:08 a.m. ET, June 22, 2021

Here’s how some Democratic mayoral candidates are campaigning this morning 

From CNN's Alyssa Kraus

Thirteen Democrats are running in the New York City mayoral primaries today. This is the first time voters will pick their nominees using ranked-choice voting, a process where voters rank their top five choices in order of preference instead of choosing just one candidate. This means it could be weeks before a winner is determined. 

Many of the nominees posted on social media this morning, urging residents to vote throughout the day. Polls opened at 6 a.m. ET and will close at 9 p.m. ET tonight. 

Here's a look at some of the candidates' tweets:

 Eric Adams:

Shaun Donovan:

Kathryn Garcia:

Maya Wiley: 

Andrew Yang: 

10:45 a.m. ET, June 22, 2021

These are the NYC races using ranked-choice voting

From CNN's Adam Levy and Ethan Cohen

People vote during the Primary Election Day at P.S. 81 on June 22, 2021 in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn borough in New York City. 
People vote during the Primary Election Day at P.S. 81 on June 22, 2021 in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn borough in New York City.  Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

For the first time, New York City voters will be using ranked-choice voting for some nominations (including mayor), a system where instead of selecting one candidate, voters rank their top five choices in order of preference.

Ranked-choice voting, as well as New York’s laws around absentee ballots, means it will likely take weeks to have full results of the election.

So, which position in the primary will be using ranked-choice voting?

Voters will rank their top five choices in order of preference for:

  • Mayor
  • Public advocate
  • Comptroller
  • Borough presidents
  • City council members

Remember: Ranked-choice voting only applies to New York City elections and will not be used in the following contests (note – not all positions listed here are on the ballot this month): president, governor, US senator, surrogate, supreme court, judges, civil court judges, district attorney, congress, state senate, and state assembly.

10:29 a.m. ET, June 22, 2021

The art of an alliance: How some candidates are using strategy in ranked-choice voting

From CNN's Gregory Krieg

Democratic mayoral candidates Eric Adams and Andrew Yang have waged the most fierce, personal campaign-within-a-campaign of the primary. Adams led the charge of criticism after Yang revealed, early in the running, that he spent some of the worst of the pandemic in a second home outside the city, in upstate Ulster County.

So it was little surprise that Yang laid into Adams when a controversy over whether the Brooklyn Borough president actually lived in the borough he runs blew up late in the campaign. Adams tried to defuse the questions by offering the media guided tours of an apartment he owns in Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, but the episode touched off a barrage of new reporting over Adams' real estate disclosures – or, in certain cases, a lack thereof.

It's hard to say whether the issue swayed any voters, but its brief capture underscored unresolved issues – about home and loyalty in a pandemic-leveled city – attached to the trauma of the past 15 months and, more narrowly, the bad blood between the two candidates.

That dynamic blew up over the weekend, when Yang and another democratic candidate, Kathryn Garcia, began to campaign together, with Yang encouraging his supporters to rank Garcia second. Surrogates for Adams charged that the alliance was forged out of a desire to keep a Black or Latino candidate out of City Hall. Though Adams has been less explicit himself in making the allegation, his campaign bundled remarks to that effect from prominent supporters and blasted them out to reporters.

In an appearance Monday morning on CNN's New Day, Adams first denied that he was suggesting the alliance was racially motivated before doubling back.

"I can say this, that African-Americans are very clear on voter suppression," Adams said, channeling his supporters' gripes. "We know about a poll tax, we know about the fight that we've had historically."

That comment appeared to draw in Wiley, who put out a sharp statement later in the morning.

"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," said Wiley, who is also Black.

Wiley went on to criticize Yang over comments he made at a recent debate about the mentally ill, which many considered insensitive or offensive, but ultimately argued that his campaigning with Garcia "is not racist and we should not be using this term so loosely against other candidates at the end of a long campaign when New Yorkers are all coming together to make important choices about our collective future."

Garcia and Yang, who both dismissed the allegation as ridiculous, continued to appear together on the stump right up through the eve of the election.

10:22 a.m. ET, June 22, 2021

Who is leading the Democratic mayoral primary, according to some of the latest polls

Analysis from CNN's Harry Enten

New York City mayoral candidate Eric Adams prepares to speak after voting during Primary Election Day at P.S. 81 on June 22, 2021 in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn borough in New York City. 
New York City mayoral candidate Eric Adams prepares to speak after voting during Primary Election Day at P.S. 81 on June 22, 2021 in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn borough in New York City.  Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

A new WNBC/Telemundo 47/Politico/Marist College poll finds Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams leading the New York City Democratic mayoral primary 24% to Kathryn Garcia's 17%, Maya Wiley's 15%, and Andrew Yang's 13%. All other candidates are in single-digits.

The same poll found that when ranked choice voting was applied that Adams defeated Garcia 56% to 44% in the final round.

Pretty much every other public poll puts Adams on top in voters' first choice, but other surveys show anything from a large Adams lead to a small Garcia advantage in the final round.

What's the point: With the primary today, the word "mess" is the only real way to describe the Democratic mayoral primary in the country's most populated and heavily Democratic city.

There are a lot of candidates (eight of whom qualified for the final debate), a new ranked choice system where voters get to rank up to five candidates if they want, and low turnout is likely.

Adams is the favorite, but the race remains within the margin of error. It does seem likely, however, that this election will be another 2021 election where Democratic primary voters will select a relatively moderate candidate.

When you look at the Marist poll, it becomes clear that Adams is recreating President Joe Biden's 2020 primary coalition to a large extent. In round one, he is winning among Black voters (with 43% and nobody else above 11%), while in fourth place among White voters (with just 12%). Adams is crushing voters ages 45 and older (with 29%), as he is tied for third with voters younger than 45 (with 14%).

Additionally, Adams is at 42% among conservative primary voters and 29% among moderates. He's at a mere 11% among very liberals. The candidate who seems to have the second best chance of winning at this point (Garcia) is more toward the ideological center. She does best (25%) among the candidates among the biggest bloc in the electorate, regular liberals.

Read more on the latest polling here.

9:42 a.m. ET, June 22, 2021

This is how many people voted early in the NYC primary elections

From CNN's Adam Levy and Ethan Cohen

Early voting stickers are seen at an early voting location on June 16, 2021 in the Upper West Side neighborhood of Manhattan in New York City. 
Early voting stickers are seen at an early voting location on June 16, 2021 in the Upper West Side neighborhood of Manhattan in New York City.  Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Early voting began June 12 and ran through June 20 in New York City.

As of Monday, the New York City Board of Elections reported 220,690 absentee ballots had been sent out and 82,682 had been returned.

At least 191,197 New Yorkers voted during the early voting period, according to the board.

9:29 a.m. ET, June 22, 2021

Here's how New York City's ranked-choice ballots will be counted

From CNN's Ethan Cohen and Adam Levy

A person waits in line to vote during the Primary Election Day at P.S. 81 on June 22, 2021 in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn borough in New York City. 
A person waits in line to vote during the Primary Election Day at P.S. 81 on June 22, 2021 in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn borough in New York City.  Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Thirteen Democrats and two Republicans are running in the New York City mayoral primaries on June 22, according to the New York City Board of Elections. They're vying for the chance to lead the largest city in the US as it faces rising crime, recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic and a range of other issues.

But because of the ranked-choice voting process – where voters rate their top five choices in order of preference instead of picking just one – there won't be a winner for at least a few weeks.

Here's how things will go after voters cast their ballot.

How the count will work

If no candidate receives more than 50% of the first-choice votes, tabulation will be conducted in rounds.

The candidate with fewest votes after the initial count is eliminated and all ballots for that candidate will be reallocated to the next highest-ranked candidate selected. That process will continue until two candidates are left, with the winner determined by who has the most votes in that final round.

What the results will look like

In previous elections, a simple list of candidates with vote totals for each would be shown. Ranked-choice elections results are displayed in a grid. Each column represents a round of the ranked-choice voting process. The candidates marked in red received the fewest votes and is therefore eliminated. Those votes are redistributed to whomever those voters ranked next on their ballot. That's why remaining candidates can gain votes each round. When there are only two candidates left, whoever has the most votes wins.

The other unique element of these results is the row at the bottom for "inactive ballots." Those ballots, also sometimes called "exhausted" ballots, are ballots for which there are no candidate selected who remains in the running. 

For example, if a voter selects only first and second choices, and those candidates are eliminated in the first two rounds, their ballot would be "inactive" and won't be included in the rest of the process.