Saturday, 12 Jun 2021

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Endorses Maya Wiley for N.Y.C. Mayor

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, one of the most prominent left-wing leaders in the country, endorsed Maya D. Wiley in the race for New York City mayor on Saturday, urging voters to “come together as a movement.”

Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s endorsement represents the most significant development yet in left-wing efforts to shape the June 22 Democratic primary that is almost certain to determine the city’s next mayor.

“If we don’t come together as a movement, we will get a New York City built by and for billionaires, and we need a city by and for working people,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said outside City Hall in Manhattan, as Ms. Wiley waited in the background. “So we will vote for Maya No. 1.”

Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s endorsement of Ms. Wiley, a civil rights lawyer and former counsel to Mayor Bill de Blasio, comes at a moment of extraordinary volatility in the mayor’s race — one week before early voting begins.

Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, has increasingly been seen as the Democratic front-runner in the race, in close competition with Andrew Yang, the former presidential candidate. Kathryn Garcia, the former sanitation commissioner, has also demonstrated growing traction. But sparse public polling and interviews with party strategists suggested that there was still a significant number of voters who remained undecided.

Ms. Wiley has generally been considered part of the top tier of candidates, too, but she has not been seen as a front-runner throughout the race. In recent weeks, however, she has landed a growing number of endorsements, especially from the left.

On Saturday afternoon, Representative Jamaal Bowman, another left-wing New York Democrat who is close to Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, wrote on Twitter that he, too, was supporting Ms. Wiley.

“I know I’m in a different lane, because I’m in the progressive lane,” Ms. Wiley said in a brief interview after the event, addressing contrasts with her opponents. “I think that progressive lane is its own lane now in this race.”

For months, it was unclear whether Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, 31, would use her platform to influence the mayor’s race. Her backing likely cements Ms. Wiley as the liberal standard-bearer in the contest, and could signal a new measure of viability around her campaign.

The endorsement may also provide a boost to the left wing of the Democratic Party, which, despite significant recent victories at the congressional and state legislative levels in New York, seemed to be at a disadvantage in the mayor’s race as leaders and activists struggled to coalesce around a single candidate.

On several issues but especially on matters of policing, Ms. Wiley has positioned herself to the left of Mr. Adams, Mr. Yang and Ms. Garcia, and her candidacy will offer an important test of how potent that pitch is among Democratic voters who want to rein in police misconduct but are also concerned about rising violent crime.

Ms. Ocasio-Cortez did not mention Mr. Yang or Mr. Adams by name, but she blasted the “dark money” shaping the race — both have attracted controversy over donors to their super PACs — and she implicitly warned against candidates who support what she cast as overpolicing.

“We’ve already tried Giuliani’s New York,” Ms. Ocasio-Cortez said, adding that the city has also tried “Bloomberg’s New York.”

“And what that got us was a New York that was harder to afford and a New York that criminalized young people and put them into lifelong carceral cycles,” she said. “It ends now.”

Understand the N.Y.C. Mayoral Race

    • Who’s Running for Mayor? There are more than a dozen people still in the race to become New York City’s next mayor, and the primary will be held on June 22. Here’s a rundown of the candidates.
    • Get to Know the Candidates: We asked leading candidates for mayor questions about everything from police reform and climate change to their favorite bagel order and workout routine.
    • What is Ranked-Choice Voting? New York City began using ranked-choice voting for primary elections this year, and voters will be able to list up to five candidates in order of preference. Confused? We can help.

    “These are the stakes,” she continued. “Maya Wiley is the one. She will be a progressive in Gracie Mansion.”

    Ms. Wiley’s campaign has promoted a number of progressive policy proposals, including cutting $1 billion from the police budget and trimming at least 2,250 officers; helping poor families pay for child care by offering $5,000 grants to caregivers; and giving subsidies to low-income New Yorkers to help pay for rent.

    Minutes after the endorsement was announced, Mr. Adams — who, more than any candidate, is running on the issue of public safety, casting it as the “prerequisite” to prosperity — released a statement blasting Ms. Ocasio-Cortez and Ms. Wiley over the issue of police funding.

    “Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and Maya Wiley want to slash the Police Department budget and shrink the police force at a time when Black and brown babies are being shot in our streets, hate crimes are terrorizing Asian and Jewish communities, and innocent New Yorkers are being stabbed and shot on their way to work,” said Mr. Adams, a former police officer. “They are putting slogans and politics in front of public safety and would endanger the lives of New Yorkers.”

    Many left-wing activists and leaders have been divided over how to approach the mayor’s race. Some backed Ms. Wiley; others supported Scott M. Stringer, the city comptroller, or Dianne Morales, a former nonprofit executive. But in recent weeks, Mr. Stringer and Ms. Morales have struggled with controversies, and some of their backers have rescinded their endorsements.

    Mr. Stringer has faced two accusations of making unwanted sexual advances decades ago. He denied wrongdoing in one instance. On Friday, in response to a New York Times report about a second instance of alleged harassment and unwanted advances, he said he did not recall the woman making the allegations, but said he apologized if he had met her and made her uncomfortable.

    He has lost a number of high-profile left-wing endorsers, including Mr. Bowman.

    Ms. Morales’s struggles center on a campaign implosion, as staff members accused the campaign of not living up to its left-wing ideals, senior members departed and battles over a late-stage union drive unfolded.

    The Working Families Party had initially supported Mr. Stringer as its first choice, then backed Ms. Wiley and Ms. Morales after the first allegation against Mr. Stringer. On Friday, the party endorsed Ms. Wiley alone as its first choice.

    Mihir Zaveri and Anne Barnard contributed reporting.

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