Note: This piece was originally published on Primaries' Substack. Labyrinth supports the brilliant work done by Primaries, but does not necessarily endorse all views articulated in this piece.
6 February 2021
Née Primaries for Progress, the second release by Primaries (tentative name) to be published in Labyrinth covers the crowded 2021 New York City mayoral field. Labyrinth is pleased to share a truncated version of the piece and encourages all readers to read the full article on the the official Primaries Substack.
For the first couple months of 2020, we’re running issues that introduce a group of races already in progress. This week was going to be all of the New York City races, but we had to cut this in half because there’s just too damn much going on, and we figured some detail was warranted for a city of 8 million. Next week will be all the other stuff. Comptroller, BPs, AGs, and the Council. We promise not to spend as much time on each candidate. Fields for NYC mayor are always large, but this is on another level. Believe it or not, we’ve culled the list down to just candidates that get media attention. We also ranked candidates on three dimensions: their ideology, their viability as a candidate, and their capacity for pure Machiavellian scheming.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams
Eric Adams has been working towards getting here for his entire career. He is probably the reason we included the “Machiavellian” dimension on this ranking. It was originally going to be “Evil”*, but most of the other candidates didn’t really warrant that. Adams was a cop for 22 years before even starting his political ventures. In his cop days he was mostly known for his time leading an association of Black officers, but even then his issues with department racism were indignations that Black officers were being treated like regular, non-police, people instead of the “homeowners” and “officers” they were. He made the jump to elected office in 2006, when his state senate district opened up, but he was elbows-deep in grimy NYC politics before that.
In a 1994 primary challenge against then-incumbent idiosyncratic sorta-leftist Major Owens, running from what appears to have been a pro-Louis Farrakhan position? That’s weird, but much more shocking is that before that he was obviously a go-to guy for a punchy quote supporting or attacking certain politicians. One of them, offered in 1993, was that a Latino politician didn’t care about Latinos in the city because he was in an interracial marriage:
“He returns to his community when he needs votes. He should have returned there when looking for a wife."
What? Seriously, give that one a moment to sink in. Eric Adams said a politician shouldn’t have married outside of his immediate community. And that’s not an idle thought in private, he went to the newspaper and made sure that quote was attached to his name.
Adams was working with Republican politicians in the 90s, he’s a self-proclaimed conservative, and he was a registered Republican until at least 2001. He eventually found his way to the Democrats, and that’s the party that his 2007 entry into the Senate was under. Considering that not soon after he was elected, the IDC broke off of the caucus and he was not a member, we can’t call him one of the worst Democrats in the Senate then, but he did stick by the absolute worst of them all: Hiram Monserrate. Monserrate was ejected from the Senate after a conviction for domestic violence. All but 8 Senators voted to eject, and Adams was one of those 8. A cop looking the other way at domestic violence from his colleagues? No way.
Adams was elected Brooklyn Borough President in 2013. Borough President is a largely useless position, but one that covers a significant portion of the city. The high visibility and lack of any real responsibilities make the office perfect for politicians looking to move up. About a year ago, the conventional wisdom was that there were 5 main mayoral contenders, and 3 were current or former BPs (one ended up not running). Since much of the job is just public statements, it’s hard to say where the BP role ends and his campaigning begins. To that end, his increasingly aggressive public posture is a sign of what interest groups he’s chasing and how he intends to govern.
Recently, Adams has said that people who have moved to New York City should leave and go back to their home states, because, as he put it, “New York City belongs to the people that were here”, and outsiders are not welcome, to hell with more than three centuries as perhaps THE hub of global migration. He stood by these comments after a backlash. Regarding a complaint that police were parking their cars in the middle of the street, he compared the complainant to a KKK member. He continues to classify himself as “extremely conservative” when it comes to criminal justice issues (“crime”). He attacked a LGBT public housing complex for seniors as “disruptive” and “not inclusive” because of who would be living there. He couldn’t have meant racially “not inclusive”, since the residents were over ¾ non-white, so his objection was just to the fact that queers would be there. And as for his official mayor campaign itself, he’s explicitly promised to run a dirty one.
Ruthless, powerful, and beloved by a variety of financial interests, Eric Adams is a frontrunner, and, if you believe Yang’s polls, the leading non-Andrew Yang candidate. He certainly has the most money. But there’s a sense he should be doing better than he is. Adams has spent a decade burning bridges with plenty of powerful people, and—very unusually for an NYC mayoral race with a leading Black candidate whose political base is Black voters—most Black political leaders have steered clear of him. He’s been open about seeing Scott Stringer as his main threat, and about attempting to fuse together a coalition of Black voters and a hodgepodge of more moderate whites who would oppose Stringer for one reason or another.
That’s probably the reason for his comments about wanting to expel new arrivals to the city. People associate them with the younger, whiter crowd that’s helped feed gentrification, and they’re much more likely to be drawn to Stringer than to him. He’s trying to connect with whoever the inverse of a Stringer voter may be. Support from Black voters is the cornerstone to his strategy, then, and his campaign will live or die by whether he’s able to consolidate them thoroughly enough.
To read the rest of this post, please visit the Primaries Substack.
Opinion Haver (@AsInMarx) is the screen name used by the co-founder of Primaries (tentative name), formerly known as Primaries for Progress (tentative name).
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