The New York City mayoral race.

Plus, catching up on the last few days.
Isaac Saul Jun 22, 2021
I’m Isaac Saul, and this is Tangle: an independent, ad-free, subscriber-supported politics newsletter that summarizes the best arguments from across the political spectrum — then “my take.” You can read Tangle for free or subscribe for Friday editions, and you can reach me anytime by replying to this email. If someone sent you this email, they’re asking you to sign up. You can do that by clicking here.

Today’s read: 13 minutes.

We’re covering the New York City mayoral race, some news you missed, and all the usual tidbits. Today’s newsletter is a tad bit longer than usual (with a NYC primer and some catching up to do), so we’re skipping the reader question to get everyone up to speed.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, widely considered the current favorite for mayor.

What you missed.

A lot has happened in the last few days, so here are a few headlines I wanted to be sure you didn’t miss:

  • The Supreme Court ruled unanimously to allow religious objections to same-sex marriage, saying foster-care agencies can turn away same-sex couples (The Wall Street Journal, subscription). The court also voted 7-2 to preserve the Affordable Care Act after a challenge from Republicans. (Reuters)
  • Iranian ultra-conservative judge Ebrahim Raisi became president in an election that many Iranians sat out in protest. (BBC)
  • A group of 20 bipartisan senators came out in favor of a $1.2 trillion infrastructure framework, with enough Republican support to pass in the Senate. (Axios)

Today’s quick hits.

  1. The For The People Act, Democrats’ wide-ranging voting rights reform bill, is expected to quietly die in the Senate today as Republicans plan to filibuster the legislation. (Politico)
  2. A federal judge has tossed out most of the claims of excessive force against Trump, Attorney General William Barr and U.S. officials in the clearing of Lafayette Square. (The Washington Post, subscription).
  3. Iran’s new president-elect Ebrahim Raisi used his first appearance in public to rule out any limits on Iran’s missile capabilities, a meeting with President Biden or a return to the previous nuclear agreement. (Associated Press)
  4. The Supreme Court ruled unanimously against the NCAA, allowing schools to provide unlimited academic-related benefits to their athletes. However, the ruling “does not touch on the question of whether student athletes can be paid a salary for the rights to their names, image and likeness.” (Axios)
  5. California announced it will pay off accumulated unpaid rent to landlords, helping them to break even and providing renters relief as well. (Associated Press)

What D.C. is talking about.

New York. Today is the official election day for the Republican and Democratic primary races for New York City mayor. While mayoral races don’t typically reach the kind of “national news” to be the main story in Tangle, this one has some extra significance because of how many national issues are on the ballot: police reform, climate change, pandemic recovery and education, all with ranked-choice voting (the process New Yorkers are using to elect their mayor this year). It also helps that New York is America’s largest city, and some of the candidates have national profiles. As a result, a national political debate has taken place around this local race.

Based on polling and fundraising, the Democratic primary is widely viewed as what will determine the next mayor of New York City, given the Big Apple’s strong Democratic lean. In the interest of realistic outcomes and space, we’ll (mostly) focus on favorites. Of the 15 candidates, there are 13 Democrats and two Republicans on the ballot to replace Mayor Bill de Blasio. Voters will be able to rank their top five. Here is a quick primer on the six favorites, in alphabetical order:

Eric Adams (D): Adams is a 60-year-old former state senator who has been Brooklyn borough president since 2014. He also spent 22 years as a New York City police officer and was a registered Republican from 1995 to 2002. He’s made addressing crime his top priority, campaigning both on his experiences as a young Black teenager in New York and, later, as a police officer. He’s called for a “People’s Plan” that includes a $3,000 tax credit for the poor, universal child care and housing assistance for anyone near homelessness. He’s faced criticism for having a home in New Jersey where he spends most of his time, and for suggesting the potential reinstatement of stop and frisk.

Kathryn Garcia (D): The 51-year-old ran the city’s sanitation system from 2014 until 2020, and worked under current Mayor Bill de Blasio. She’s made headlines as one of the most likely candidates to become the first female mayor and has been endorsed by The New York Times and New York Daily News’ editorial boards. Many consider her the most experienced favorite in the race. She’s faced criticism for resigning from her position in the middle of the pandemic after de Blasio cut funding for the sanitation budget. Garcia and Yang have formed a late alliance, calling on voters to rank them each highly.

Dianne Morales (D): As the 54-year-old former CEO of a Bronx-based social services nonprofit, she is widely considered the most progressive candidate in the pack. She has called for rebuilding New York City’s Housing Authority, cutting the police budget in half and creating a Community First Responders Department. She’s also called for providing guaranteed income to the poor. She’s faced criticism for allegations of a toxic work environment which threw her campaign into chaos in the final months of the race.

Scott Stringer (D): Stringer, 61, was a six-term state assemblyman, Manhattan borough president and then the city comptroller. He is also frequently described as the most experienced candidate in the race, and was leading the way for progressives until a former campaign worker named Jean Kim accused him of groping her in 2001 during one of his campaigns. Stringer said they were in a consensual relationship and reporters have raised questions about Kim’s story. But he lost many of his endorsements and his campaign has been drowning since.

Maya Wiley (D): Wiley, 57, was chair of the city’s Civilian Complaint Review Board from 2016 to 2017 and then counsel to Bill de Blasio. She has called for a $10 billion capital spending program and a major infrastructure and stimulus program, garnering support from top progressives like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). She’s been criticized for a failed attempt to bring broadband to all New Yorkers and for her work to prevent disclosures of Bill de Blasio’s communications with lobbyists.

Andrew Yang (D): Yang, a 46-year-old former entrepreneur, ran for president in 2020 on his primary platform of universal basic income. He has introduced a similar plan for New York, proposing $2,000 per year for some 500,000 low-income city residents. He’s faced criticism for leaving the city during the pandemic and for the revelation that he’s never voted in a New York City mayoral race himself.

Who is the favorite? The six folks above. Remember: there are seven other Democratic candidates and two Republicans. Accurate polling for ranked-choice voting is very difficult, but most of the recent polls have had Eric Adams in the lead. Yang and Garcia have been close seconds, and Maya Wiley has some momentum in the home stretch thanks to progressive endorsements of her campaign. Scott Stringer was once considered a top-two favorite, but now his campaign is gasping for air. Morales has a lot of grassroots support and some key endorsements, but has yet to poll well.


What the left is saying.

The left is split on the candidates.

The New York Times editorial board endorsed Kathryn Garcia for mayor, writing that the mayor needs to do more than just address crime or get students back to school — they need to make progress on persistent problems like transportation, housing, education and poverty. The board cited her success modernizing the Sanitation Department, solving a lead poisoning crisis, and organizing 200 million meal deliveries during the pandemic.

“Ms. Garcia’s many years of experience — she first joined the Sanitation Department as a 22-year-old intern — have helped her develop laudable plans for the city that are also achievable: Provide free child care up to age 3 for families earning less than $70,000 a year. Implement bilingual programs in every elementary school. Transform Rikers Island into a hub for renewable energy, with charging stations for the city’s electric vehicle fleet. Expand rapid bus lanes. Create more green space in low-income neighborhoods. Address the city’s centuries-old trash problem by getting refuse off the sidewalks and tucked away into nicer-looking, rat-resistant containers,” they wrote. “She is also committed to reforming the New York Police Department. That begins with speeding up and strengthening the disciplinary process, reforming the promotion process, raising the age for recruits to 25 from 21 and requiring them to live in the five boroughs.”

Ross Barkan, addressing the moderate favorites in the race, said that Eric Adams was a greater threat to progressive politics than Andrew Yang.

“All policy criticisms of Mayor Adams, in the coming years, can be reduced to race if he so chooses,” Barkan wrote. “This is the terrain many liberals wanted to play on, and now they will compete with a master. Do you care about transportation issues, like how cars with city-issued placards can park illegally, creating dangerous hazards for pedestrians and cyclists? Adams thinks you’re a white supremacist. Do you wonder why he sleeps at Borough Hall and spends time at an apartment in New Jersey? You’re a racist. Concerned about Adams’ oversight of nonprofits that seem to have created glaring conflicts-of-interest? Well, you’re unfairly maligning a Black man when there are plenty of white politicians who get away with corruption. Adams will be a far more deft opponent than the Left realizes. He is schooled in the logic and the rhetoric. He is ready for this fight.”

Michelle Goldberg argued the opposite: that she’d be putting Adams on her ballot over Yang as a backup choice to progressives.

“The writer Ross Barkan has argued that, for the left, Yang would be preferable,” Goldberg said. “Lacking a real political base, Barkan wrote, Yang would be susceptible to progressive pressure. Adams, by contrast, ‘would be strong enough to tell the socialists, the progressives, the Working Families Party, the NGOs and the ordinary activists shouting outside Gracie Mansion that he does not need them to run the city.’

“I think Barkan is right that Yang would be less hostile to left-wing organizations,” Goldberg said. “But I suspect that Adams, precisely because he’s more beholden to Black voters, would end up giving us more progressive governance... For Yang, I suspect, a successful mayoralty would mean restoring Michael Bloomberg’s New York, an extremely safe, pleasant place for tourists and well-off families like mine, but one where many poorer people were financially squeezed and strictly policed. Even if Yang could, as a political novice, stand up to the N.Y.P.D., he’d have little reason to, since his remit would be safety at almost any cost.”

In The Nation, Akash Mehta and Sam Mellins said progressives could “lose the mayor’s race but win the city.”

“Further down the ballot, progressives may yet pull off a wave of transformative victories,” they wrote. “Thirty-five of the 51 current City Council members are term-limited, meaning the council will see a turnover of at least two-thirds of its members. Progressive groups have recruited candidates in most of those open races, from stars of the city’s left like [Tiffany] Cabán, who gained national prominence during her 2019 run for Queens DA, to less-familiar names running in terrain far from the left’s strongholds, like Adolfo Abreu, a longtime community organizer running as a socialist in a Bronx district currently held by an anti-abortion Democrat with a record of anti-LGBTQ bigotry… All these races are being fought on ground considerably to the left of where they were just a cycle ago, perhaps giving the lie to one of the more persistent narratives that has emerged from the mayoral race: that progressive ideas have begun to lose their appeal in New York City.”


What the right is saying.

The right has focused almost entirely on crime, ignoring the Republicans in the race and instead throwing their support behind moderate Democrats like Eric Adams, Andrew Yang, and Ray McGuire.

The New York Post editorial board even declined to endorse a Republican candidate in the primary, instead throwing its weight behind Eric Adams.

“Eric Adams is unequivocally the best candidate to save the city,” the board wrote. “Pick him as your first choice on your ballot. Younger New Yorkers do not know what rising crime and financial mismanagement did to the city in the ’70s and ’80s. They may not realize the hard work that went into turning things around, how smarter policing under Mayor Rudy Giuliani lowered the murder rate and saved the lives of hundreds of people, mostly African Americans.

“The elimination of bail, the demonizing of the NYPD, the general lack of consequences for disorder — New York has regressed,” the board said. “As a cop for 22 years, Adams understands the crisis, including the need for careful reforms that don’t stop good cops from doing their job… He’s also well-positioned to get his former colleagues to lift the cap on charter schools, giving more options to New Yorkers whose local public schools are low-quality. But he’s also determined to improve the regular school system — half of whose students, he angrily notes, don’t meet basic proficiency in reading and math.”

The Wall Street Journal editorial board struck a similar tone, saying the city needed to be saved from progressives like Bill de Blasio.

“Some progressives now want to disavow Mr. de Blasio, who has become a clownish figure and is deeply unpopular, but he has implemented their agenda,” the board said. “Regulations have crushed small businesses. Bias against charter schools and substituting race for merit in admissions have reversed educational gains. A court ordered the city’s public housing authority put under control of a federal monitor. Wage and pension payoffs for public unions have left the city facing a fiscal crisis despite huge Covid cash infusions from Congress.

“Above all, crime and disorder have returned amid progressive assaults on police and the anti-crime strategies that worked,” they wrote. “Bail reform let repeat offenders free. The mentally ill homeless attack subway riders and pedestrians. The mayor had his police chief disband the anti-crime unit that searched for illegal guns, and shootings have soared… Ray McGuire, a former Citigroup executive, has also talked sensibly about crime. Mr. McGuire is the best candidate on education, supporting more charter schools that have long waiting lists and focusing on achievement. As a political outsider, he’d also be best positioned to bring Bloomberg-style management to the city’s finances. But Mr. McGuire has never gained traction in the polls and will need a late surge to have a chance.”

Michael Goodwin said “to vote as if your life depended on it – because it might.”

“Gotham is at a tipping point,” he wrote. “After more than two decades of being the largest safe city in America, it is now barreling downhill at a remarkable pace. Crime is exploding for the second consecutive year and the quality of life is collapsing. Homeless vagrants, some violent and many suffering from mental illness, are everywhere, schools are fixated on indoctrination instead of education, and parks and subways are dangerous again.

“Still, there is hope, with a plurality of voters consistently saying crime is the biggest problem,” he wrote. “A Post poll released Friday put the number at nearly 30%, approximately three times as many as those who cited affordable housing (10.6%), jobs (8.4%) and police reform, (8.1%) as the top concern… Early on, I identified crime and education, including school choice, as the two key issues, and pledged to support candidates who are strongest in those areas. Because crime is far and away Public Enemy No. 1, Eric Adams is my first choice. I believe he is serious about getting illegal handguns off the street. Andrew Yang is my second choice. He has been disappointing of late, but remains the second-strongest on supporting police and is tops in supporting excellence in schools and boosting charters.”


My take.

As I’ve said in every election covered by Tangle, I don’t endorse candidates. It’s not my job to tell you who to vote for or what to think, and I’m not going to start now (or ever). But I do have some thoughts on the outlines of these conversations.

First, it’s wild to see Republicans without a viable candidate in the race. It wasn’t so long ago the city was run by Bloombergs and Giulianis, with wide appeal on the right and left. Democrats now outnumber Republicans by about six to one in New York and The New York Post and Wall Street Journal didn’t even bother endorsing a Republican in the race (hence the absence of coverage here).

Second, I’m finding the “armageddon crime wave” narrative so many on the right (and center-left) have clung to a bit cringeworthy. It is indisputable that violent crime is up in the city, and there’s no doubt the communities being hit hardest are low-income. But why crime is up is not as simple as the “defund the police” movement, and anyone selling that is misleading you. Police haven’t really been defunded in New York. Changes like bail reform are almost certainly having some effect on crime, but there are plenty of data to suggest it isn’t nearly as much as people claim.

It’s far more likely crime is up thanks to a smorgasbord of factors in the city over the last year and a half caused by the pandemic: teenagers haven’t been in school, unemployment has skyrocketed, people are struggling to make their rent, drug use is up, and — yes — animosity has increased between citizens and police amid a massive movement for reform. These are probably the same reasons crime is up in most cities, even in places where there hasn’t been bail reform.

Unlike many New Yorkers, I’m proud to be able to say I never left the city. I live in Bushwick, in a mostly Hispanic neighborhood, which is sort of in between gentrification and its lower socioeconomic status. It’s not a cushy Upper West Side enclave, but it is tucked between Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brownsville and the wealthier (and whiter) Williamsburg and Clinton Hill. And things are… doing okay.

I still comfortably walk the streets at night, the restaurant and entertainment industries that employ most people are slowly coming back, and things are approaching pre-pandemic normalcy. There aren’t armed madmen running around every corner. Gun and homicide violence is still 70 percent lower than it was in the 90s and 50 percent lower than in the early 2000s. I suspect the homeless in New York City — especially in midtown Manhattan — are simply more visible after hundreds of thousands of people fled the city and so many offices remain empty. I think it’s a good thing for New Yorkers to finally have to confront their existence and think about how to improve their lives. It’s a bad thing for us to demonize them as criminal vagrants who need to be locked away out of sight.

It’s not just the “city on fire” narrative I dislike. There’s plenty to dislike about all the top candidates in this race. Eric Adams, the presumed favorite, has a laundry list of shady connections and would probably be a corporate sellout. His idea to bring back stop and frisk is one of the worst ideas any candidate in the race has. He also might not even live in the city. Meanwhile, Andrew Yang, as charismatic as he is, is trying to run a city he doesn’t seem to understand and has next to no experience worthy of the job. Raymond McGuire is an out-of-touch Citigroup executive who thought the median house in Brooklyn cost $80,000 to $90,000 (the real answer is $900,000). Garcia has experience but was a main player in one of the most disliked mayoral offices ever. Maya Wiley couldn’t even deliver internet and Morales had trouble running a functional campaign — how could she run a city of 8 million people?

There are plenty of reasons for the country to follow this race, including because 800,000 voters are expected to cast ballots on issues ranging from the pandemic recovery to police reform. Despite the national attention, though, I’m not sure I’d read too much into the results. Everyone will grasp for their own narratives. If Eric Adams wins, it’ll either be because he’s a prominent Black leader (progressive narrative) or because he recreated Biden’s constituency (moderate Democratic narrative) or because he supported the police (Republican narrative). If a progressive insurgent wins, it’ll either be because the country is moving left (progressive narrative) or because New York City is far-left (moderate left narrative) or because Ranked Choice Voting is broken (Republican narrative).

Regardless, this is going to be a very unpredictable race, and we may not have the full results for weeks (one polling simulation had Eric Adams winning after 12 rounds of cutting candidates to get him across the 50 percent threshold). I do believe New York’s Democratic electorate is more moderate than many people think — especially on crime — and I suspect we’ll have Adams or Garcia (who has opposed defunding the police) as mayor when it’s all over. But even with election day here, it’s a jump ball.


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A story that matters.

Median existing-home prices hit an all-time high in the United States in May, with the latest data from the National Association of Realtors confirming what many have witnessed firsthand. Median home prices topped $350,000 for the first time ever, at $350,300. That’s a 23.6 percent increase in May from the year before. A shortage of property and low interest rates have driven prices to skyrocket, leaving a lot of potential buyers on the sidelines. It’s also led to some of the fastest turnarounds in housing sales history, with homes spending just 17 days on the market on average. (Wall Street Journal, subscription)


Numbers.

  • 62%. The percentage of Democrats who support requiring voters to show a photo ID in order to vote, according to a new Monmouth poll.
  • 87%.The percentage of independents who support requiring voters to show a photo ID in order to vote, according to a new Monmouth poll.
  • 91%. The percentage of Republicans who support requiring voters to show a photo ID in order to vote, according to a new Monmouth poll.
  • 53%. The percentage of Americans who would switch to an entirely new industry if they could retrain, according to a Prudential survey.
  • 950. The number of July flights canceled by American Airlines in order to keep up with a shortage of pilots and ground crew.

We’re back.

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Have a nice day.

I’m a married man! First off: thank you for all the kind words, congratulations, and understanding. That’s the first time I’ve taken more than a day or two off from Tangle, and I was nervous — so all the kind words were very much appreciated. I know everyone thinks their wedding was special, but these truly were the most incredible few days of my life. I am overflowing with gratitude and love. Also, the weather was perfect and it’s been raining and storming ever since. Thank you for the good vibes. By your popular request, here’s my favorite picture from the night, courtesy of our friend (and actual professional photographer) Eva Woolridge.

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Isaac Saul

I'm a politics reporter who grew up in Buck County, PA — one of the most politically divisive counties in America. I'm trying to fix the way we consume political news.

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