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Democratic Candidates For NYC Mayor Campaign Full-Out Ahead Of Primary

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Who will lead the nation's largest city out of the pandemic? Voters in New York City will head to the polls tomorrow to decide in America's primary election. More than a dozen mayoral candidates are running in what has been a very competitive race. Tuesday's Democratic primary winner will likely be New York City's next mayor, and who voters choose could have national implications. We are joined now by member station WNYC politics reporter Brigid Bergin. Thanks for being here, Brigid.

BRIGID BERGIN, BYLINE: Thank you.

MARTIN: We should say, voters have already had nine days of early voting there. Polls open one last time tomorrow. Who are the frontrunners at this point?

BERGIN: Well, again - and when we look at this race, we're really focused on the Democratic primary since Democratic primary voters outnumber Republicans about 7 to 1. There are 13 Democrats on the ballot, but it's really boiling down to a race of the top four. And that's former New York City police captain Eric Adams; former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang; a long-serving city bureaucrat, most recently the city's sanitation commissioner, Kathryn Garcia; and Maya Wiley. She's a civil rights attorney and a former lawyer to Mayor Bill de Blasio.

MARTIN: So under outgoing Mayor Bill de Blasio, New York lost more than 30,000 people during the COVID-19 pandemic, more than any other U.S. city. But New York, like so many other communities, is dealing with other big issues - right? - the economy, crime, to name just two. How much of the pandemic, compared to these other issues, is defining the race for mayor there?

BERGIN: Well, it defined the start of the race. In the early months, these candidates used to meet for hours at a time over Zoom. But really, as the city begins to reopen, the growing concern is about public safety and particularly an increase in shootings. There was just another incident last Thursday in the Bronx where a surveillance camera caught two children who happened to come between a shooter and his target. Now, fortunately, neither the children were wounded physically. Adams is one of the candidates who's really vowed to crack down on guns.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

ERIC ADAMS: We can't just discount what happened that day. If that didn't horrify all of us, then we have become callous to the violence in this city.

BERGIN: I should say, three of the leading candidates are considered more moderate. Maya Wiley has support from the progressive left. She wants to take a different approach to combating crime and would actually move about a billion dollars from the police department's $6 billion budget to do that. And as you said, this race has national implications. Many see New York City as a litmus test for the Democratic Party's views on policing, and people are really going to be watching how voters react here to concerns over public safety and rising crime.

MARTIN: We should also acknowledge just how this election is happening, right? Voters are using a system called ranked choice. They're using this for the first time in a citywide primary in New York. How is that changing things?

BERGIN: Well, voters will be able to rank their top five candidates. And when they tally those votes under ranked-choice voting, the person who finishes last is eliminated, and voters who chose that person will have their second choice counted, and that process just keeps repeating. So those second-choice votes are really important. And proponents say that this can really encourage candidates to team up together, and we saw that for the first time this weekend. Andrew Young and Kathryn Garcia were actually out on the trail together and will be again today.

MARTIN: Is this going to affect - the new ranked-choice voting, is it going to affect when we know the results?

BERGIN: Well, it's part of what will impact when we know the results. We'll know unofficial results on Tuesday night, but because of a series of changes to our election laws, it could actually take until mid-July to know who won this race.

MARTIN: Brigid Bergin of WNYC. Thank you. We appreciate it.

BERGIN: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.