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New York City To Hold Mayoral Primary On Tuesday

LULU GARCIA-NAVARRO, HOST:

A retired police officer, a former sanitation chief and a 2020 presidential hopeful - those are some of the candidates hoping to become New York City's next mayor. The city's mayoral primary is on Tuesday, and there are eight people in the running. And whomever wins will almost certainly succeed the current mayor, Bill de Blasio. Katie Honan is the City Hall reporter for The Wall Street Journal, and she joins us now from Queens, N.Y. Hello.

KATIE HONAN: Thank you so much for having me, Lulu.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So New York mayor is a hugely powerful role, not only in the state but in the country. We have Andrew Yang, of course, on the ticket, but also Eric Adams, a former NYPD cop; Maya Wiley, an attorney; Kathryn Garcia, a former sanitation commissioner. This will be, though, the first time that voters will be able to sort of rank candidates by preference in this race. That's called ranked-choice voting. How will this change things?

HONAN: I think a lot of us are still unsure as to what this will mean on Election Day and how the voter tallies will actually shake out. Yesterday, we had what was probably our first joint - at least this late in the game - joint campaigning between two candidates, Captain Garcia and Andrew Yang. Interestingly enough, Andrew Yang told his huge crowd of followers in Flushing, Queens, rank me first, and rank Captain second. Captain Garcia just said rank me first and ended it there, full stop. We thought there might be some more collaboration or these kind of cross-endorsements, but so far, we haven't seen that. Polling shows that voters are pretty OK with understanding ranked-choice voting. I think maybe they're confused as to how they're going to rank people in their ballot and some strategic - ranking someone five to knock someone else out, all that kind of stuff. But it will definitely be interesting, and seeing when we actually get these results. Because it could - you know, we will have an idea on Tuesday, which is primary day, but we won't have those final results for a few weeks.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: I mean, the new mayor is going to inherit a lot of challenges - a rise in homicides, an economy fighting its way back from the pandemic, the legacy of the sort of horrific death toll of the pandemic, too. I mean, it's a city that's been traumatized, I guess, for lack of a better word. What are you hearing from New Yorkers as they cast their votes?

HONAN: I heard initially - you know, in reporting early on in this campaign, people were just so distracted. No one was paying attention. First, so many candidates were running. You know, there were eight who debated - they qualified for the debate - but there's actually 13 on the ballot, and there were even more people running before that who have dropped out. So people were just trying to literally stay alive, trying to keep their families intact if they were doing online schooling, trying to stay safe and healthy. Now people are starting to tune in and get a sense of who's running. And it's - yeah, it's public health. It's a lot - public safety concerns about crime - really serious concerns about crime - and concerns about the city's comeback. And as you said, look, more than 35,000 New York City residents died of COVID. I don't think anyone has fully grappled with that trauma and that grief of what we all dealt with. Even if you did not die or if you did not lose a loved one very close to you, you - it was all around you for months and months and months. So I don't know how that will play out in the election, but it will certainly be inherited by the next mayor when they take office on January 1.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Let me ask you this. It's likely, as we mentioned, that whomever wins will be the next mayor. But let's talk about the Republican candidates. Do they have a chance?

HONAN: You know, that is difficult to say. We have two candidates, Curtis Sliwa and Fernando Mateo. Both are longtime New York City characters, for lack of a better word. Curtis Sliwa, the founder of the Guardian Angels, a street safety organization in the '70s. Fernando Mateo has been a longtime activist in various organizations in the city. I don't know who's going to win that, right? I mean, there's polling that shows Curtis Sliwa is in the lead, but who knows? Depending on crime and depending on who wins, there could be some sort of surge. As liberal as people think New York City is, we have elected Republican mayors quite frequently. And if there's a surge in crime and depending on who actually wins the Democratic primary, who knows what can happen between June and the November general to kind of push someone voting for a Republican?

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That's Katie Honan. She is the City Hall reporter for The Wall Street Journal. Thank you very much.

HONAN: Thanks for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.