The seat held by Bill de Blasio, the current mayor of New York (“The Capital of the World,” as many New Yorkers like to call it) will be vacant this year and some 30 politicians, activists and businessmen have already set their sights on it.
“It’s the biggest city the country has. It’s a city that has a profile internationally, both because of the media and the financial industry. I don’t like to say this, but the reality is that it’s the capital of the world, so it’s a position that raises the profile of mayors,” says CUNY professor John A. Gutierrez.
But, this glamorous side of the leading economic and cultural center of the United States, also has the complicated reverse side of governing a city of more than eight million residents, facing serious structural problems such as shortage of housing or public transportation, which have worsened with the COVID-19 pandemic, which in turn has added more complications to the situation, such as an increase in unemployment due to the radical lockdown policies of the Democratic Administrations.
Not in vain, as Gutiérrez states, “historically it is said that the second most difficult job in U.S. politics after the presidency is to be mayor of New York.”
But the race is still in its early stages, with the primary elections scheduled for June 22nd and the mayoral election on November 2nd.
New York primary elections
While de Blasio’s replacement will obviously not be known until November 3rd, all eyes are on the June primaries in which the two major parties, Democratic and Republican, will choose their respective candidates.
With New York City being a traditional Democratic Party stronghold, where, for example, Democrat candidate Joe Biden beat Donald Trump with 76% of the vote, many argue that the race for the mayor’s chair is really played out in the primaries.
The Democratic primaries
Among the myriad of hopefuls, a dozen names seem to stand out among the favorites.
Current Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, 60, is one of them. A former police officer and former state senator, he was the first African-American to be at the helm of Brooklyn, where his eight years as a local borough president could give him the endorsements he needs to make the leap to mayor.
Scott Stringer, 60, is the current comptroller of the city of New York and another veteran politician who, as Gutierrez assures, has support in the Manhattan district and has good connections with key economic sectors in the city such as finance and real estate.
The former Secretary of State for Housing, Shaun Donovan, 54, is another of the candidates best positioned a priori in this race, and Gutierrez highlights his “technocrat” profile, although he doubts that he has a sufficient popular base to prevail in the electoral race.
Maya Wiley (57 years old), lawyer, activist and former advisor to De Blasio, appears as one of the candidates with more options, in a race where there are several women hopefuls, among which is also psychiatrist and retired military Loree Sutton (61 years old).
The large presence of the Latino and African American community in districts such as the Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn makes them key to winning the primaries.
Diana Morales (53 years old), of Puerto Rican origin, is one of the Latin hopefuls in the race, along with Carlos Menchaca (40 years old), one of the youngest candidates with Mexican roots.
Both also represent the left wing of the Democratic Party, to the point that Gutierrez considers that their programs are perhaps too progressive for the Latino community, especially for older people “who are looking for stability and not radical ideas.”
Beyond the veteran officials and activists hoping to win the sympathies of voters before the summer knocks on the door, a handful of candidates from outside politics have made their mark in this electoral race.
Among them, former U.S. presidential hopeful, businessman Andrew Yang (46 years old), and former Citigroup Vice President Ray Macguire (64 years old), who seem to be the best positioned and who also have, a priori, outstanding personal fortunes with which to boost their campaigns.
Yang, who surprised in the Democratic primaries for the presidency, has proven to be very skilled in attracting potential young voters through social networks.
While in the Democratic ranks the electoral machinery is already well-oiled and working at full capacity, in the Republican Party everything is moving slowly.
However, there are already several candidates who have taken a step forward or have made public their intentions to run, such as the former Wall Street executive Sara Tirschwell (55 years old); the founder of the Guardian Angels citizen patrols, Curtis Sliwa (66 years old); or the head of the New York Taxi Drivers Federation, Fernando Mateo (63 years old).
But all eyes are on billionaire businessman John Catsimatidis, who already ran unsuccessfully in the primaries for his party in 2013 -in which he invested 11 million dollars-, and who has flirted with the idea of running again, although he has not yet taken a firm step.
Whoever wins will have to face the challenges of recovering the city after COVID-19, whose effects, as Gutierrez assures, are comparable to the English attack on New York in 1812 or the September 11, 2001 attacks on the Twin Towers, “moments that mark a before and after in the history of the city.”