If the New York City Democratic mayoral primary were written exactly as it happened into a movie, I would roll my eyes at the trailer. It’s too ridiculous and chaotic. Too on the nose. The fact that a Brooklyn rapper named Paperboy Love Prince qualified for the ballot is not even high on the list of bizarre things about this race.
Andrew Yang, who seems to have looked around after losing the U.S. presidential primary and thrown a dart at any random race for which he might qualify, basically morphed into Michael Scott from “The Office” as he struggled to portray himself as a Real New Yorker. (He resides in the Hudson Valley, but keeps an apartment in the city.)
Originally considered the front-runner due mostly to high name recognition, Yang campaigned on things like bringing TikTok collab houses to New York. He was mercilessly roasted on Twitter after posting a video of himself buying bananas at a “bodega,” which looked more like a mini-Whole Foods. He tried and failed to woo a key LGBTQ group’s endorsement by telling them in a speech that he was excited to visit one popular lesbian bar in Manhattan. On National Pet Day, he tweeted a photo of a dog he used to own that he had to give away due to his son’s allergies. He listed his favorite subway stop as Times Square — arguably the most universally loathed and avoided subway stop in the city. He told the comedian Ziwe that he’s a big fan of Jay-Z, panicked and blanked for a moment when she asked him to name one song, and then awkwardly rapped a line from “Encore.”
Things took a darker turn for Yang in recent days when he said (not once but twice!) that when he sees mentally ill people on the streets of New York, his main concern is that the sight of them will turn off tourists. Clearly he must really love tourists, considering his fondness for the Times Square subway stop, but that is not a particularly helpful trait in a candidate for mayor for the people who actually live in the city. (Yang conceded the race on Tuesday night, despite the fact that it will probably taking days to complete tallying the official results.)
Since Yang’s candidacy tanked so precipitously, going into the primary election on Tuesday, the front-runner was Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams, a former Republican cop and vegan who — let’s be honest with ourselves — clearly lives in New Jersey. Adams showed reporters the inside of his refrigerator in a basement in Brooklyn where he allegedly lives sometimes, but it was full of meat, which he blamed on his son. And it had no bathtub, despite his clearly stated affinity for taking bubble baths.
Adams also bragged about having killed exactly 107 rats. But the strangest moment of his candidacy, perhaps, was an interview he gave to Mishpacha Magazine in May in which he attempted to court the Jewish Orthodox community by promoting his undying love for Israel. Adams told the mag that he loves Israel so much — ”the food, the culture, the dance, everything” — that he plans to retire on a plot of land in Golan Heights, which is basically Israeli-occupied Syria. “Brooklyn is the Tel Aviv of America,” he exclaimed amid a wild display of cluelessness that really took pandering to a new level.
We may very well end up with another bizarre mayor, and that would be fitting.
As Adams climbed in the polls, Kathryn Garcia, the practical, centrist bureaucrat endorsed by The New York Times, who once said she “fell in love with garbage,” made the odd decision to form an alliance with Yang, which set off a war between Yang and Adams. Adams accused Yang and Garcia of trying to prevent a “person of color” from winning the race, prompting Yang to fire back that he is a person of color, too. The fight devolved into Adams shouting that Yang is a “liar” and a “fraud” on the last full day of their campaigns.
Diane Morales, originally considered to be the most progressive candidate in the race, fired 45 of her campaign staffers just weeks before the vote after they staged an uprising and went on strike against her. Candidates Shaun Donovan and Raymond McGuire guessed, rather hilariously, that the median price of a home in Brooklyn is $100,000. This left progressives with ultimately no choice but to coalesce around Maya Wiley, an attorney and activist who was spotted hula-hooping for votes in heels in front of a bagel shop in the city on Sunday.
Phew. It’s tempting to blame the chaos on NYC’s first attempt at ranked choice voting, or that this race comes on the heels of a pandemic that shut down America’s biggest city for a whole year. But the truth is, New York has always chosen weird mayors. Rudy Giuliani, after all, will now forever be known for staging a news conference at Four Seasons Total Landscaping, next to an adult bookstore and crematorium, in a final bid to maintain political relevance.
New York is a chaotic place. We all live on top of one another, so much so that a handful of our mayoral candidates struggle to prove they even live here, because frankly, they don’t. We may very well end up with another bizarre mayor, and that would be fitting. At the very least, it won’t be boring.