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Kathryn Garcia presses New York mayor’s race amid Rival crisis

During her years as the leader of the New York City government, Kathryn Garcia gained a reputation as a seasoned problem solver and the admiration of political insiders.

But in the months since Ms Garcia, the city’s former sanitation commissioner, began her campaign to become New York’s next mayor, she has struggled to use that toll to capture interest. voters and break through a crowded field.

With seven weeks into the Democratic primary contest and many townspeople just starting to pay close attention to the race, Ms Garcia might have the opportunity to try and revive her campaign – and she’s seizing the moment.

On Tuesday, Ms Garcia will air her first TV commercial of the campaign and announce the endorsement of Loree K. Sutton, a former city commissioner who ended her own mayoral bid in March.

The one-two punch comes just days after Scott M. Stringer, the city comptroller, who, like Ms Garcia, campaigned for his record in government, was confronted with old allegations of sexual harassment 20 years from a former campaign agent. .

The allegations against Mr Stringer may have paved the way for Ms Garcia to convince voters who appreciate the experience. Mr Stringer vehemently denied the allegations against him, but he lost several key mentions nonetheless, and many candidates called on him to drop out.

Ms Garcia also drew attention to remarks made by apparently race favorite Andrew Yang suggesting he would welcome Ms Garcia to serve as her number 2 – a prospect she dismissed with disdain.

“It really feels like the winds have turned, and they’re blowing in our sails,” Garcia said in an interview this week.

Ms Sutton’s new publicity and endorsement will underline the message Ms Garcia has held dear since her mayoral bid in December was launched: that her pragmatic approach and her experience in city administration make her the best person. placed to lead New York City.

“It’s no guesswork to ask how Kathryn would function, how she would function, how she would govern during a time of life and death crisis,” said Ms. Sutton, who sent out a similar message.

Prior to last year, Ms. Garcia had never run for political office, but she had accumulated extensive experience in the city’s health, financial and environmental agencies.

“She clearly knows more about government than almost anyone I know, and I know a lot of people who know a lot about government,” said Howard Wolfson, who served as Deputy Mayor under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg.

Ms. Garcia has become known to be particularly effective during crises. In 2012, she helped put the city’s water systems back into service after they were knocked out by Hurricane Sandy.

During her tenure as Mayor Bill de Blasio’s sanitation commissioner, she was also deployed to temporarily oversee the struggling New York City Housing Authority in 2019. When the coronavirus swept through the city, it took it down. support for an emergency initiative to feed the needy and return home.

But this expertise does not seem to have resonated with voters. Although polls on the race remain limited, Ms Garcia has always received single-digit support.

A recent poll by news channel NY1 and Ipsos found that only 29% of likely voters said they knew Ms. Garcia, while 37% said they had not heard of her at all.

Still, a large percentage of the city’s residents remain undecided in the race, and Ms Garcia said she was confident she could win those voters over with her track record.

“They want to make a thoughtful decision,” she said. “And they are looking for expertise and experience.”

Christina M. Greer, associate professor of political science at Fordham University, said she expected the charges against Mr Stringer to cause some of his supporters to reconsider his candidacy. Ms Garcia’s campaign, she added, is well positioned to pick up some.

“If his campaign can just transfer some of those types of voters who say, ‘I really want someone who knows the government’ – well, it fits the mold,” Dr Greer said.

Ms Garcia can also take on voters who, following the charges against Mr Stringer, are convinced that a woman should run the city for the first time in its history, Dr Greer said.

But Mr. Stringer’s grassroots support is far from guaranteed. He sought to become the race’s leading progressive candidate, while Ms Garcia presented herself as a non-ideological technocrat.

Ms. Garcia’s campaign ad doubles that message. After 30 seconds, she is standing inside a red box labeled “in case of emergency, break glass”. While putting on a leather jacket, she mentions her record as “the city’s essential crisis manager”.

Next, Ms. Garcia puts on a pair of safety glasses. “When there is a crisis,” she says, “sometimes you have to break glass to resolve it.”

The metaphors – escaping a box, breaking the glass ceiling, emergency response – are more than clear.

“It’s about bursting,” admitted Ms. Garcia. “But there’s also this underlying message of other people trying to define you. And I will define myself.

Dana Rubinstein contributed reporting.

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