NEW YORK — Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams won New York City’s Democratic mayoral primary Tuesday after newly counted ballots showed him narrowly holding his lead in the tight race featuring ranked choice voting.
The results released Tuesday included most of the more than 125,000 Democratic mail-in votes. Adams remained ahead of Kathryn Garcia in the final ranked choice voting elimination round of the partial results but saw his advantage thin.
Adams held a 1%, or 8,426 votes, lead over Garcia in the Democratic primary. Although narrow, a Board of Elections official said earlier in the day fewer than 4,000 ballots had to “cured,” allowing voters to fix minor defects with their mail-in vote.
Maya Wiley, former counsel to Mayor Bill de Blasio, remained third. More of her voters ranked Garcia over Adams after she appeared to be eliminated, but 139,459 ballots were exhausted by the final round, meaning those voters did not rank either of the final candidates.
“While there are still some very small amounts of votes to be counted, the results are clear: an historic, diverse, five-borough coalition led by working class New Yorkers has led us to victory in the Democratic primary for Mayor of New York City,” Adams said in a statement.
Adams, whose central campaign promise was to reduce crime and boost public safety, held a roughly 9-point lead on election night but has seen the race draw closer as the ranked choice voting calculation redistributes voters’ preferences.
Adams is the heavy favorite to win the November general election and would be the city’s second Black mayor.
Adams, Garcia and Wiley have all filed lawsuits seeking to review the ongoing ranked choice tally. It’s unclear if any candidate will challenge the results.
In a statement, Wiley said her campaign would have “more to say about the next steps shortly.” She also repeated criticism of the Board of Elections and called for reform to “build new confidence in how we administer voting in New York City.”
Tuesday’s tally come a week after confusion cast a shadow over the mayoral election when the Board of Elections released the first ranked voting calculation and erroneously included 135,000 test ballots.
The board acknowledged the error later that evening and on Wednesday released corrected returns, showing a narrowed race. Adams won more than 31% of first choice preferences of in person early and Election Day voters, but last week’s tally had the former police captain ahead 51.1% to Garcia’s 48.9% in the final ranked voting round.
Garcia made it into the final ranked voting round in the results released last week by a margin of just 0.1%, or 347 votes, over Wiley. The results Tuesday showed Garcia ahead of Wiley by 1.4%, or more than 12,000 votes, in the penultimate round.
135,000 ‘test’ ballots mistakenly added:How NYC’s election board got the results so wrong
Dawn Sandow, the election board’s deputy executive director, said at a meeting Tuesday the board hopes to begin the certification process by July 14 after 3,699 ballots are cured.
New York’s state law allows for mail-in votes postmarked on Election Day to be received by the city’s election board within a week, and voters are also given time to address minor issues with their ballots, such as a missing signature.
Ranked choice voting is new to New York’s mayoral primary this year after a 2019 ballot initiative approved the new system, which lets voters select up to five choices.
Because no candidate won a majority of first choice votes, a series of elimination rounds redistributing votes was initiated. The person with the most votes after two candidates remain is the winner.
The system has been used in several other U.S. cities and states before, but this mayoral election is one of the closest watched uses of ranked voting.
Advocates have said the drawn-out results are due to New York’s voting laws and the last week’s debacle due to human error at the Board of Elections.
Candidates and other public officials cast the error as the latest in a string of missteps from the board, whose members and staff are political appointees. The board apologized in a statement after releasing the corrected results.
The winner of the Democratic primary has been expected to win in November as the city’s Democratic voters far outnumber Republicans. Curtis Sliwa, the Guardian Angels founder and radio host, won the Republican primary. De Blasio, a Democrat, has reached his term limit.
The Democratic mayoral primary has largely centered on crime and the city’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Adams campaigned on a message of public safety and increasing police presence in high crime neighborhoods. However, he also pledged changes to the police department and has long been seen as a police reformer in the city.
Born in Brownsville, Brooklyn, and raised in South Jamaica, Queens, Adams grew up in a working-class household and, as a teen, was beaten while in police custody, sparking his desire to become a police officer and change the department from within.
In the 1990s, he formed 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, an advocacy group that sought to fight racial profiling and police brutality while restoring trust among Black residents.
“He really has credibility on both sides of the issue” of crime and policing, Fordham University political science professor Bruce Berg said.
“If he can handle police reform early on, and make everybody reasonably happy. … I think that that would be a very successful first year for him,” Berg added.
Though briefly registered as a Republican in the 1990s, Adams was first elected to the New York Senate in 2006. He became Brooklyn Borough president in 2013.
He’s also a vegan and credits his plant-based diet with greatly aiding his health after he was diagnosed with diabetes.
In another closely watched local race, a former federal prosecutor and deputy attorney general in New York, Alvin Bragg, appeared poised to become the next Manhattan district attorney. Bragg’s opponent, former federal prosecutor Tali Farhadian Weinstein, conceded the race last week.
Bragg would become Manhattan’s first Black district attorney. Cyrus Vance, the longtime Manhattan prosecutor, is stepping down. His office is currently handling the investigation into former President Donald Trump and his businesses.
The Trump Organization and its chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg, were charged last week in a 15-count indictment alleging criminal tax fraud, conspiracy and falsifying business records.
Contributing: The Associated Press
Follow USA TODAY’s Ryan Miller on Twitter @RyanW_Miller