Local Matters: Where the New York City mayor's race stands, 50 days out

One of New York City's top mayoral candidates is hoping to rebuild his support after losing several key endorsements over a sexual misconduct accusation. Politico New York reporter Erin Durkin joins CBSN's "Red & Blue" host Elaine Quijano to discuss the state of the race before the June 22 primary.

Video Transcript

- One of the top candidates in New York City's mayoral race is looking to rebuild support after losing many of his biggest endorsements over sexual misconduct allegations. City Comptroller Scott Stringer is accused of groping a campaign volunteer two decades ago. Jean Kim, now a New York City lobbyist, reportedly filed a formal complaint Tuesday.

Stringer denies all allegations. He has since lost a co-endorsement from the progressive Working Families Party, as well as support from young progressive lawmakers, like Congressman Jamaal Bowman. Stringer and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams are the candidates closest, behind former presidential-hopeful, Andrew Yang.

Yang has led virtually every poll with his relatively large, national name recognition. Erin Durkin joins me now with more. She is a reporter for Politico New York and author of the site's New York Playbook newsletter.

Erin, welcome. Thanks very much for being with us. So we mentioned the political distancing, but does it appear the accusations against Scott Stringer are having a broader impact? And if so, where has his support moved?

ERIN DURKIN: Well, yeah. I mean, there have not been any new polls that have come out since the allegations came out. But just about every high profile supporter of Stringer's, most of them have pulled out at this point. And you know, he was really counting on kind of having this progressive coalition behind him.

Frankly, less, because of who he is as an individual. You know, he's an older, white man, who's been in politics his entire life. But he was able to really form this coalition of sort of young, left-leaning, progressive organizations and elected officials, who, because they were validators for him, were able to bring him so many of these left-leaning voters. And now those people are gone. So that's not going to cost him every voter who supports him, but it is likely to cost him a significant number of them.

- You know, when you take a step back, Erin, and look at the history of New York City politics, New York City has had more than 100 mayors going back to the 1660s, all men. Now, three of the eight major candidates in this race are women. Is it clear, Erin, why none have gotten a lot of traction in polls to date?

ERIN DURKIN: Well, you know, there's no one reason. There have certainly been some of the candidates saying that there are certain elements of sexism that are playing into it. For instance, Kathryn Garcia, who is the former sanitation commissioner, has kind of been like a fix-it person for every crisis that the city has had, has been widely recognized as a competent manager. But often people say, well, I'll put her number two in ranked choice voting, or she'd be a good deputy mayor.

And she has commented that, that is kind of a sexist attitude, that she should be the number two actually running operations when you have someone like Andrew Young as the mayor. You know, Maya Wiley of the women running, has probably done the best in the polls, but she's usually been around number four. And Diane Morales, you know, has inspired some progressive excitement on the left. And well really, all three of those candidates, could in different ways stand to pick up some support from Stringer.

- How much attention, Erin, are New Yorkers actually paying to this race? And is there anything upcoming that could change that?

ERIN DURKIN: Honestly, not very much attention. You know, there are a subset of New Yorkers who are very engaged with this and are paying close attention. And there's a lot of information out there. But there's definitely a perception that, especially with the pandemic, you know, the fact that we just got through a presidential election last year. You know, the fact that the city is just now reopening.

A lot of people's attention is focused elsewhere. They have not been intensely focused on this race, particularly considering that this will be the first race where the primary's in June. It will be the first one with ranked choice voting.

In terms of what could change that. You know, all of the candidates kind of got a rapid pace, most of them have now been going up with TV ads. And there is the first debate among the democratic primary candidates next week. So that may cause people to start tuning in.

- You mentioned ranked choice voting. This primary is running under new voting rules for New York City. Ranked choice voting is the process. Can you explain, Erin, for our viewers, how does that work exactly? And what's the potential impact on this race?

ERIN DURKIN: Yeah, sure. So under ranked choice voting, rather than just voting for one candidate, you can rank up to five candidates. And so in order to win the primary, you need to get 50% of the vote. And if no one does, then essentially it's a process of elimination where they eliminate the last place candidate. And their votes are redistributed to the second choice of whoever had voted for them originally.

And that will continue until someone gets to 50%, over 50% of the vote. There has never been a clear consensus on who really stands to benefit from that. There have been some theories that it would cut down on negative campaigning, although there has been plenty of negative campaigning in this race in actuality, particularly against the front-runner, Andrew Yang.

And there's been a lot of speculation as far as you know, who could become the acceptable number two that a lot of people could vote for and who could then benefit from that. But it's never been tried before, so there's no real consensus as to what direction it will shape the race in.

- Well, Erin, while we have you here, I also want to ask about the long simmering feud between New York Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on the city's reopening. Is there a clear sense of what's behind their disagreements?

ERIN DURKIN: Well, that would be a much longer story than we have time to tell here right now. But they have not gotten along going back to 2014. de Blasio has always felt that Cuomo is one to sort of pursue a, vendetta is a word he used way back then, against anyone who kind of crosses him.

And you know, there has definitely been a pattern of Cuomo during the pandemic and prior to the pandemic. Everything that de Blasio does, Cuomo then kind of comes to undercut him or comes to bid for him. Or comes to, you know, not let him have the last word on anything.

And you know, Cuomo's perception of de Blasio is that he's kind of feckless and not very competent. And so yes, they have been clashing repeatedly over pandemic regulations. You know, Cuomo really has the power in the situation.

And de Blasio would like to have more local control to be making the decisions for what's going on in the city, but he kind of has to get everything cleared with Cuomo. And there's a real perception that Cuomo deliberately does not want to really let de Blasio have his way on anything.

- And on and on and on. As you said, Erin, we could do a whole other segment on just that topic alone. But we're out of time here. Erin Durkin for us. Erin, thank you so much.

ERIN DURKIN: All right, thank you for having me.