It’s fashionable to say the New York mayoral race is a dud: No one is paying attention, the field is weak. False: The Democratic primary, fewer than three months away, is an embarrassment of riches. Whatever candidate you might conjure up — in policies or background — you can find. The choice is yours.
The contrast to the last two open elections couldn’t be sharper. In 2013, when then-Mayor Mike Bloomberg couldn’t run again, voters had their pick of four Democratic candidates. All had come up through Gotham’s establishment politics: Bill de Blasio, public advocate and previously a councilman; John Liu, comptroller and ex-councilman; Christine Quinn, yet another city councilwoman (and speaker); Bill Thompson, a former comptroller; and Anthony Wiener, Brooklyn congressman and former aide to Sen. Chuck Schumer.
Twelve years before that, the Democratic field was even less “diverse.” Mark Green, Freddy Ferrer, Peter Vallone Sr., and Alan Hevesi — all party creatures. None could bring a fresh eye. Voters picked the newcomer in the general election: Bloomberg.
This time, no one can complain for lack of choice.
You want someone who resembles the prototype Democratic candidate, like most of the above? Scott Stringer, comptroller, has spent his whole life in Big Apple politics, and is the only candidate to have won a citywide election.
You want someone who knows how Gotham politics work, knows how to build a coalition for whatever he wants to do and knows what New York can and can’t do in Albany? Stringer’s your guy. He also favors massive tax hikes on businesses and the wealthy.
The runner-up in having mastered the political machine is Eric Adams, Brooklyn borough president. Adams grew up in poverty to become an NYPD captain. On taxes, he is more circumspect: He wants the wealthy to pay a little more, no different than the pro-business candidate, Ray McGuire.
McGuire, too, has an intriguing biography, having risen from, as he puts it, “the wrong side of the tracks” to the top of Citigroup’s investment bank.
He doesn’t like it when people compare him to Bloomberg, but he is the closest the electorate will come to a neo-Bloomberg, if that’s what they want. He will try to get New York out of its mess by pushing private-economy growth.
What if you want an apolitical manager, someone who has run not a team of millionaires, like McGuire, but run a huge city department? Someone who knows how to get the trash picked up and will know how to make sure city departments achieve her priorities?
That would be Kathryn Garcia, former Sanitation Department head. She also warns that if we raise taxes on Wall Street, it could leave, and she thinks that police have a role in policing small crimes like open-air drug use.
You want someone with less hands-on management of a huge public workforce, but who is used to dealing with a Washington bureaucracy? That would be Shaun Donovan, former city housing chief and former DC housing and budget director.
How about something completely different? Dianne Morales is a former public-school teacher, and, at a nonprofit, spent years working with homeless kids. Maya Wiley was Mayor de Blasio’s legal counsel, and she wants to transfer many policing jobs — such as cutting crime — to nonpolice, both social workers and “violence interrupters.” If you’re ready for a radically different approach to public safety, relative to the past 30 years, Wiley is your candidate.
Andrew Yang, another former nonprofit executive (and Democratic gadfly), has thought about what it takes for entrepreneurs to succeed. He also proposes giving cash to the poorest New Yorkers, no strings attached. He wants more policing in the subways, and he isn’t big on tax hikes.
Personality? You have to decide who you want to listen to on a screen for the next four years. Stringer and Yang are low-key; Garcia is direct; Adams is the opposite of low-key; Wiley is professionally crisp; Morales is empathetic; McGuire is a sophisticated cosmopolitan, right down to his background Zoom library; Donovan is technocratic.
If you are picky, and none of these people suits your fancy, you can wait until the general election in November, and vote Republican. But no one can complain that the race lacks choice.
Nicole Gelinas is a contributing editor of City Journal.