Two Democrats running for New York City mayor didn’t mind that a Bronx politician chose to endorse them both on Sunday, ranking them first and second, under the city’s new ranked-choice voting system, which allows voters to list up to five candidates in order of preference.
On Sunday, New York State Sen. Gustavo Rivera stood alongside City Comptroller Scott Stringer and former nonprofit executive Dianne Morales during a small gathering at Ciccarone Park in the Bronx’s Little Italy neighborhood, located in Rivera’s district. He supported Stringer and Morales for mayor — in that order.
“They’re both born and raised New Yorkers,” Rivera said in front of about a dozen campaign staff who livestreamed the event on social media. “They both have a tried-and-true experience. It means they can both run the city.”
Stringer and Morales are part of a crowded field of more than 30 candidates seeking to replace term-limited Mayor Bill de Blasio. The June 22 Democratic primary will be the first citywide election to adapt the new system, passed in 2019. The election for mayor will be held on Nov. 2.
The new ranking system is already being used in early voting for a Feb. 2 special election for City Council in Queens.
Ranked-choice voting requires candidates to garner more than 50 percent of the first-choice votes to win, according to the city’s Campaign Finance Board. If no one gets a majority, then counting continues, winnowing candidates down by the number of votes gathered in each preference. Ultimately, two candidates are left until one gets the most votes.
In 2019, nearly three-quarters of voters passed the ranked-choice system for most New York City elections. Proponents argued it would increase voter turnout, give first-time candidates greater chances of getting elected, and reduce negative campaigning.
“We both want to be mayor, right?” Stringer asked Morales. The two stressed this doesn’t mean they’re endorsing each other, though Morales called Stringer her “number two” choice. However, it does signal that candidates can unite by using ranked-choice voting.
“Part of what we’re doing here is not just laying out our vision and our hopes for the city, but also building a coalition,” Stringer said. “This is the way all candidates get to participate.”
Rivera celebrated his ranked-choice mayoral endorsement as the first in the city’s history, but he admitted he was initially skeptical of the new system. He now welcomes the change.
“What it does is it actually makes sure that we have a conversation about ideas,” he said. “How do we actually get the city that we deserve for the folks that are most vulnerable? How do we actually achieve that? We need to make sure that those conversations happen.”
Rivera emphasized that he supported Stringer and Morales because they were from New York City, a statement that some could interpret as an attack on some of the newer mayoral candidates, such as Andrew Yang, a former 2020 Democratic presidential candidate who left the city during the pandemic, according to POLITICO. Yang led the field in a mid-December poll by Public Policy Polling with 17 percent. But of the 755 likely voters surveyed in the poll, 40 percent said they were undecided more than six months away from the primary.
Rivera also highlighted Stringer and Morales’s experience: Stringer has been comptroller since 2013, while Morales ran Phipps Neighborhoods, a South Bronx nonprofit that provides educational and career services.
January campaign filing statements show Stringer has among the highest fundraising numbers, $6.65 million, which combines private funds matched by public dollars under the city’s election financing program. Meanwhile, Morales hasn’t yet qualified for public matching funds, but she has raised $336,000. She has one of the highest number of total contributors, meanwhile, even if her campaign has among the lowest average contributions.
In her first run for any elected office, Morales also said she wanted candidates to help voters understand the ranked-choice system.
“We are leading by example so that we can begin to demystify the process and begin the process of educating folks, because clearly our city is falling short on that,” she said.