NEW YORK – Amid a mayoral race in which moderate public safety-focused candidates led the polls, more left-wing factions in New York City rally around Maya Wiley less than two weeks before Election Day .
Wiley received his most high-profile endorsement over the weekend from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, DN.Y., a mainstay of self-proclaimed “progressive” politics.
Ocasio-Cortez called Wiley his “No.1” choice for mayor in a June 22 primary election, when voters will rank their top five candidates. the The Left Working Families Party backed Wiley as the first choice candidate last week after supporting other candidates.
“We have the option of a candidate who can center people, racial justice, economic justice and climate justice, who has not only come to run for mayor, but who has experience and a lifetime of dedication to that. And that candidate is Maya Wiley, “Ocasio-Cortez said outside City Hall on Saturday.
Wiley is a lawyer, teacher, former MSNBC commentator and member of Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration who entered the race in October.
Prior to approval, Wiley had not reached the top spot in most polls, and candidates who called for increased policing fared much better throughout the race despite New York’s reputation among outside observers as a liberal city.
The surge in support for Wiley could be crucial as more voters turn on, said Michael Hendrix, director of national and local policy at the Manhattan Institute.
“If there’s a time to break into the progressive path, that’s fine,” said Hendrix. “It’s a big time for her.”
How Wiley won the support of Ocasio-Cortez and other liberals
Prior to Democratic Mayor de Blasio, New York City elected Republican Rudy Giuliani for two terms and Republican-turned-independent Michael Bloomberg for three.
In the national spotlight, New York is sometimes presented as a city with extremely liberal politicians. It has even been called an “anarchist jurisdiction” by President Donald Trump’s Justice Department, threatening to withhold federal funding.
In recent years, left-wing candidates have made huge strides and progressives felt this race was their moment, Hendrix said.
De Blasio, though frowned upon by many liberals, led his mayoral campaign on the “two-city tale,” highlighting economic inequality and winning in 2013 and 2017. Ocasio-Cortez stunned domestic political observers when she beat longtime incumbent Joe Crowley in 2018.
When Wiley announced her candidacy, she called for building a “stronger, fairer and more just city”.
“Some will say that I don’t look like former mayors, that I don’t look like them or that I don’t think like them. And I say, ‘Yeah, I don’t. That’s the point. “I’m not a conventional candidate,” Wiley said in a video.
Wiley campaigned on a variety of liberal policy proposals, including expanding investment in public housing; funding “care income” to send $ 5,000 to low-income families for child and senior care; and the creation of a “Works Progress Administration-type infrastructure, stimulus and employment program” that would cost $ 10 billion.
Wiley’s platform also calls for “transforming” the police. She supported measures that would cut the New York Police Department’s budget by at least $ 1 billion and divert police funding to mental health and homelessness services, as well as schools. .
“She’s someone whose background as a community organizer, lawyer, someone who taught social justice at the New School in Manhattan and who is also a woman of color… lends credit to supporting progressives, ”said Hendrix.
Wiley won the support of other left-wing politicians in New York and beyond, such as Representative Jamaal Bowman, DN.Y. ; Senator Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. ; former Secretary of Housing and Town Planning Julien castro; and Senator Julia Salazar.
Dianne Morales and Scott Stringer, two other Liberal candidates, suffered campaign setbacks.
Stringer, the city comptroller who has operated on a balance between extensive government experience and liberal policies, has been accused of sexual misconduct by two women, including a former campaign staff member, The New York Times reported. The former staff member accused him of unwanted kissing and fumbling. Stringer denied the allegation.
Morales, a former executive of a nonprofit group, faced internal division in his campaign after his staff formed a union and compiled a list of demands that Morales rejected. City & State, a local media outlet, reported that Morales said the requests “included material that violated state and local laws, and / or created a risk of fiscal liability for the campaign.”
It’s unclear whether the endorsements for Wiley will reshape the race.
Although progressivesupport appeared divided among the three candidates ahead of Wiley’s approvals, winning in New York requires a coalition of various voting blocs, said Ester Fuchs, director of the urban and social policy program at Columbia University.
“I don’t think the endorsement of an individual politician brings a large block of voters,” said Fuchs, who worked in the Bloomberg administration and donated to Stringer’s campaign.
Why more moderate candidates lead polls in New York’s ‘post-COVID moment’
In the mayoral race, considered by many to be one of the most important in recent history, as the city emerges from the COVID-19 pandemic, polls have shown no consensus in favor of a far left mayoral candidate.
Former NYPD officer Eric Adams leads the overcrowded pack of the top eight Democratic candidates, according to the latest NY1 / Ipsos poll, released Monday and conducted May 17-31. Just behind are Andrew Yang, a former Democratic presidential candidate, and Kathryn Garcia, former head of the city’s sanitation service.
While there is a Republican primary between businessman Fernando Mateo and Guardian Angels founder and radio host Curtis Sliwa, neither is likely to present a competitive challenge for the winner of the Democratic primary.
Adams, Yang, and Garcia lead much more moderate campaigns than Wiley on the issue of policing.
Yang and Garcia have called for more officers in some areas, and Adams, who is the president of the Brooklyn Borough and was briefly registered as a Republican in the 1990s, has made public safety the central message of his countryside. Hendrix said Adams appealed to black voters who support “community policing” while calling for departmental reforms.
After Ocasio-Cortez backed Wiley, Adams accuses his opponent to try to cut the police budget and downsize the department “when black and brown babies are shot on our streets, hate crimes terrorize Asian and Jewish communities, and innocent New Yorkers are stabbed and shot on the way to work. “
Shooting incidents have increased 77% this year compared to 2020, according to NYPD statistics; however, shootings remain at levels much lower than peaks in violent crime in New York City in the 1980s and 1990s and are closer to levels of the mid-2000s.
According to the NY1 / Ipsos poll, 72% of voters say they support the NYPD by putting more officers on the streets.
On the other side of the public safety debate, the issue of police reform has gained support in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, Fuchs said, and Adams, Yang and Garcia all pledge to respond as well. to these concerns.
The moderates and ‘old-school liberals’ in the race, Fuchs said, balanced those two demands: “They want the police department reformed, but most people want the crime rate to drop, and they think the police are one of them. “
Blasio’s shadow could push the left further away, Hendrix said. Although de Blasio adopted a city-wide pre-K policy during his tenure as mayor, he has largely fallen out of favor along the Democratic political spectrum.
When candidates were asked during a debate last week if they wanted de Blasio’s approval, only Yang raised his hand.
While Ocasio-Cortez’s election was surprising nationally, Fuchs said, it was not as shocking in hindsight locally, given his district’s changing demographics, voters that his campaign mobilized and Crowley’s lack of competitive challenger ahead of Ocasio-Cortez.
Fuchs and Hendrix said other quality of life issues have come to the fore as the city recovers from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This is a post-COVID moment where the political solutions of moderate Democrats seem to resonate more with voters,” Hendrix said.
Follow USA TODAY’s Ryan Miller on Twitter @RyanW_Miller