NYC mayoral primary: Eric Adams lead built to withstand ranked-choice, experts say

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The commanding 10-point lead Eric Adams has opened up in the Democratic mayoral primary is likely to withstand the challenge of Maya Wiley and Kathryn Garcia as the ranked-choice votes are apportioned, experts told The Post on Wednesday.

“It’s going to be very difficult for Maya or Kathryn to overcome the margin that Eric has currently built,” said political analyst and pollster George Fontas.

Fontas noted that, in addition to the reallocation of ballots cast for lower-tier candidates under ranked-choice voting, there remain about 100,000 to 150,000 outstanding absentee ballots to be tallied.

“That is a meaningful number,” he said. “But I don’t think it’s enough for either of those two candidates to overcome such a large deficit.”

Veteran political consultant George Arzt was even more bullish in his confidence that Adams, a former NYPD captain and the Brooklyn borough president, had prevailed over former Department of Sanitation head Garcia and Wiley, a one-time legal counsel to outgoing Mayor Bill de Blasio.

“I think that Garcia and Wiley will vie for second place, but they’re not going to gain enough to make up the difference with Eric,” Arzt, who represents several prominent Adams supporters, told The Post. “I think we pretty much know now who the winner is.”

Jason McDaniel, a professor of political science at San Francisco State University who has studied ranked-choice voting for 10 years, concurred that a comeback by Garcia or Wiley was “not impossible, but unlikely.”

He noted that in a nationwide study of about 400 elections using ranked-choice voting — which saw its first use in New York City this primary — candidates who trailed in the tallying of first-choice votes by more than five points came out on top less than 2 percent of the time.

Pollster John McLaughlin of McLaughlin & Associates, which conducted the New York Post poll that predicted an Adams win, said that if Garcia goes out before Wiley as the ranked-choice eliminations unfold, Garcia ballots that ranked Wiley second would narrow the gap — but not enough to reach Adams.

“If Garcia goes out first, the votes were splitting about a quarter for Wiley, a fifth for Adams,” said McLaughlin, referring to second-choice trends found in The Post’s poll of 1,000 likely Democratic voters. “That’s not enough for Wiley to catch Adams.”

While Adams is expected to lose ground with the third-place finish of either Garcia or Wiley, it’s a loss that will likely be offset by second-choice votes from those who went for Andrew Yang, the businessman-turned-pol who conceded on primary night, said political consultant Hank Sheinkopf.

“The Orthodox Jewish voters go from Yang to Adams,” said Sheinkopf, referring to a community that was split between the two candidates. “You’re talking thousands of voters.”

Sheinkopf predicted that Adams would also do well as the second choice among lower-tier candidates like Ray McGuire and Shaun Donovan.

Key to Adams’ success were a prescient reading of what would matter most to voters and a strong base in the outer boroughs, the experts said.

“The race started around reopening and COVID, but it ended around public safety, and Eric was leading at the finish line for it,” Fontas said of Adams, who established himself as the field’s most vocal law-and-order candidate.

“While everyone was chasing the management of the city and bringing the city back, Eric had already moved past that and was waiting at the end of the race,” Fontas continued. “So the race ultimately came to him.”

Adams particularly cleaned up in black and working-class neighborhoods.

He carried every single one of the Bronx’s 11 Assembly districts and further ran up the score by dominating in traditionally black parts of Brooklyn and Queens, plus four districts in Upper Manhattan, a Post analysis of the first-choice vote results found.

Despite pre-race polling suggesting that white voters preferred Garcia and Wiley, he also carried Bay Ridge and Brighton Beach in Brooklyn, as well as two of Staten Island’s four districts.

Garcia drew much of her strength from wealthier and traditionally politically active swaths of Manhattan, carrying seven of the borough’s 12 Assembly districts — including the West Village, the Upper East Side, Upper West Side and Morningside Heights.

She also carried the other half of Staten Island, and edged out Wiley in the Assembly districts covering parts of brownstone Brooklyn, including Brooklyn Heights, Carroll Gardens and Park Slope.

The yawning margins between the candidates in the districts they captured suggest stark ideological differences in the highly polarized race.

Adams scored about 184,000 first-place votes from the Assembly districts he won — which yielded just 77,000 votes for Wiley and only 39,000 votes for Garcia.

Garcia, conversely, netted approximately 77,000 votes from the districts she carried, which cast just 27,000 votes for Adams.

Wiley, the most liberal of the trio, won out in western Queens, as well as gentrified and gentrifying parts of Brooklyn where far-left activists have made inroads, such as Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Bushwick and Prospect Heights, plus the western portion of Crown Heights.

While the ranked-choice voting process has yet to fully play out, McDaniel said Wiley and Garcia might have had better prospects of topping Adams had they formed a more concrete coalition.

He cited as an example San Francisco’s 2018 mayoral election, in which London Breed held a 12-point lead in the first-choice balloting, but ultimately won by less than a point because challengers Mark Leno and Jane Kim cross-endorsed each other as their preferred second choices.

“They were progressive candidates that rallied the electorate,” said McDaniel. “It was a more effective strategy from progressive candidates in San Francisco than we saw with Garcia and Wiley.”

While Garcia did campaign with Yang down the home stretch of the race, portions of Yang’s moderate base were already set on Adams as their second choice, limiting the upside for Garcia.

Additionally, Wiley’s larger base could have provided a much greater boost to Garcia, compared to Yang’s fourth-place coalition.

“There needed to be a Garcia and Wiley alliance to overtake Adams,” said McDaniel. “Yang didn’t get enough votes to make a difference.”

While saying that both Garcia and Wiley “did very, very well,” Fontas said Wiley’s campaign was, at points, lacking in clarity on its platform.

“Was she for defunding the police or was she not for defunding the police?” he asked as an example. “She will tell you she had a nuanced position, but she’s on record saying we need to cut $1 billion from the [NYPD] budget.

“She didn’t run a disciplined campaign from a message perspective,” he said. “And Eric Adams and Kathryn Garcia ran very disciplined campaigns. They were always on message.”

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