Though 2021 is generally thought to be an off-cycle election year, several important races will be decided this year. One of the most important and high-profile contests will be for the mayor of New York City. Incumbent Democrat Bill De Blasio is reaching the end of his final term and a crowded field of candidates has emerged to replace De Blasio, including high-profile figures like former presidential candidate Andrew Yang.
Despite the city’s diversity and its prominence in Black history, New York City has only had one Black mayor in its history: David Dinkins, who ran the city in the early 1990s and passed away last November. This time around, the NYC race includes several Black contenders, meaning that the nation’s largest city may soon have a Black mayor. Here’s a look at five folks who could be New York City's next mayor.
1. Maya Wiley
Maya Wiley brings a combination of experience and name recognition that no other candidate so far has been able to match. She is the senior vice president for social justice at the New School, where she also teaches as the Henry Cohen Professor of Urban Policy. A graduate of Dartmouth College and Columbia University School of Law, Wiley has an extremely long resume of fighting for justice civil rights, including stints at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, the Open Society Foundation, the NAACP Legal Defense & Educational Fund and the American Civil Liberties Union. And with De Blasio retiring, Wiley may be the closest clear successor to the outgoing mayor, having served in the administration as counsel to the mayor and then chairwoman of the NYC Civilian Complaint Review Board.
For people outside of New York, you probably know Wiley as a regular on MSNBC, where she helps educate sometimes clueless audiences on the fights for racial justice, police reform and societal change that Black people have been battling for some time.
2. Eric Adams
Eric Adams already runs New York City, or at least a significant portion of it: he's been Brooklyn borough president since 2014. A former captain in the New York Police Department, Adams also founded the organization, “100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care,” and has been a strong critic of NYPD policies under previous mayors Rudy Giuliani and Michael Bloomberg.
After leaving the NYPD, Adams served in the state senate, where he played a major role in banning police quotas – which saw an overwhelming majority of Black and Latino folks being stopped and arrested to fulfill those quotas – and getting “stop and frisk” declared unconstitutional. As you can imagine, police reform and bridging the divide between officers and citizens are among Adam’s top priorities, as are issues such as affordable childcare and year-round schooling.
As Blavity previously reported, Adams made quite a stir last year when he essentially told gentrifiers to get out of his city. Adams went on to clarify his remarks, noting that he was requiring newcomers to respect the city and communities to which they were moving.
Let me be clear: Anyone can be a New Yorker, but not everyone comes to our city with the spirit of being part of our city. I have a problem with that, and I’m unapologetic in asking more of our new arrivals to communities who were once waking up to gun shots and not alarm clocks.
— Eric Adams (@BKBoroHall) January 20, 2020
Now that Adams has declared his candidacy for mayor, such real talk may cost him some votes, but it also resonated with many of the city’s residents. With much of Brooklyn and a lot of money backing him, Adams is a strong candidate for the city’s top spot.
3. Raymond McGuire
Love it or hate it, Wall Street still wields enormous power and influence across America, especially in New York City. Ray McGuire is definitely the Wall Street candidate of this election. McGuire’s long career at Citigroup, where he was “the longest-standing head of an investment bank in the history of Wall Street,” saw him guiding some of the largest business deals in the country, such as the $108 billion merge of AT&T and Time Warner. McGuire has been working to secure the backing of his powerful friends and colleagues in big finance, and will likely have a huge financial advantage over many other candidates.
And he put out an influential report that estimated just how much anti-Black racism has cost the United States: $16 trillion. On top of all that, McGuire holds three degrees from Harvard University and is also one of the country’s top art collectors, amassing an impressive collection of African and African American art and supporting contemporary Black artists.
4. Dianne Morales
Dianne Morales is a political outsider, which is part of her appeal. She grew up in a Puerto Rican household in Bedford Stuyvesant, Brooklyn and recently brought her parents back to live with her and her two children after earthquakes rocked Puerto Rico and the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Before running for mayor, she was the CEO of Phipps Neighborhoods, a New York non-profit that “provides children, youth and families in low-income neighborhoods the opportunities they need to thrive through comprehensive education and career programs, and access to community services.” Morales’ platform includes defunding the police or “foot soldiers for a mass incarceration movement,’ as she calls them.
New episode alert!! We are sitting down with @Dianne4NYC to talk about this year's NYC mayoral race, the new rank choice voting system, and police reform!! Listen now at https://t.co/34qx4MGv6S
— Girl and the Gov, The Podcast (@girlandthegov1) January 27, 2021
5. Isaac Wright Jr.
You might not know lawyer Isaac Wright Jr.’s name, but you know his story. As Blavity previously reported, Wright studied law while serving a life sentence in prison on drug charges. He was eventually successful at having his case overturned and exposing the corruption of the prosecutor and police officer responsible for his imprisonment. Wright’s inspiring true story – he not only won his own freedom but helped 20 other incarcerated folks get out as well – inspired the show For Life, which airs on ABC.
After winning his release, Wright became a lawyer and practices with the firm Hunt, Hamlin & Ridley. Now, Wright is looking to add to his story by running for mayor of New York City. He has pledged to "address the racial, economic, environmental, and educational injustices that plague our city’s institutions."
He touts his experience navigating and ultimately overcoming the criminal justice system as key to reforming New York City. For someone whose life is already being depicted onscreen, winning the mayor's race would be a perfect Hollywood ending.
With the strong collection of diverse Black candidates running, the New York City race may very well end up with the city that has struggled with racial injustices being led by a Black person focused on changing that very system. These five candidates and others will square off in the New York City Democratic primary on June 22, with the winner facing off against the Republican candidate in the general election on Nov. 2.