Eric Adams gets a serious primary challenger
Scott Stringer, the former city comptroller, announced today he’ll run against Mayor Eric Adams. He told me, as well as other journalists, he thought the city was deteriorating and he needed to step up and run again. Stringer, of course, believes Adams is deeply vulnerable; he wouldn’t be doing this if he didn’t think he could win.
It’s notable that this is the second sitting mayor Stringer explored primarying. Back in 2016, Stringer thought hard about challenging Bill de Blasio, who was also a first-term incumbent grappling with scandal and declining approval ratings. The difference was, for all the agita de Blasio inspired in certain voters and pundits, the primary would have been mostly unwinnable. De Blasio was more popular then than Adams is now. He had overseen the successful implementation of a new universal prekindergarten program and still had the strong support of labor unions and various progressive interest groups. Black voters, in particular, still looked kindly on him, even if white liberals were souring on his mayoralty. Stringer could have done well in that race, but he would have lost his city comptroller’s post in a doomed effort.
This time around, Stringer has much less to lose. He ran for mayor in 2021 and was a top tier candidate until he was accused of sexual misconduct. The allegations, which he strenuously denied, sunk his campaign, and most of his support migrated to Kathryn Garcia, who had been de Blasio’s Sanitation commissioner and a long-shot contender. Garcia came within 10,000 votes of winning, securing the New York Times endorsement along the way and running up the score with white Manhattanites and brownstone liberals—the sort of voters who were supposed to be the backbone of Stringer’s coalition. Unlike Stringer, Garcia did not campaign as a progressive—she was proudly supportive of charter schools and boosting NYPD funding—but she was able to dodge all of the left backlash that came for Andrew Yang and, to a lesser extent, Adams himself.
Can Stringer win this time? Incumbent mayors rarely lose and it took Ed Koch seeking a fourth term to actually fall in a Democratic primary. Adams is deeply unpopular and reeling from scandal, but he still has a $2.2 million war chest and the potential for super PACs to ride to the rescue. Black voters have not deserted him yet. With a year and a half to go until the June 2025 primary, he has time to regain his standing.
But Stringer shouldn’t be dismissed. As of today, he has a real shot.