New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer officially launched his campaign for mayor in 2021 on Tuesday, pledging to address the city’s public health, economic and social justice crises. He made the widely-expected announcement at Inwood Hill Park, joined by his wife and two sons and a cadre of the city’s most progressive state lawmakers.
Stringer sought to present his bid for City Hall as one that would restore leadership, accountability and a deeper understanding of the issues facing New Yorkers than that of the current administration. He invoked his childhood growing up in Upper Manhattan and drew a parallel between the challenges facing the neighborhood then, during tough economic times, and now, compounded by what he called the “gentrification industrial complex” intersecting with the onslaught of COVID-19.
While he currently lives on the Upper West Side, Stringer described his own very personal experience with the impact of the pandemic. “If I needed a reminder that we are, in fact, all in this together, and that our fates and futures are bound up together — among the more than 20,000 New Yorkers we lost to the coronavirus was my mother, Arlene Stringer-Cuevas,” he said.
Stringer-Cuevas died in April at a hospital in the Bronx from COVID-19. Stringer said his mother’s doctor was the first person to describe to him the disproportionate impact the disease was having among the patients who were Black, Latino and faced underlying health conditions.
“The virus exposed how we left large swaths of the city on their own. The fact is, we never closed the book on 'A Tale of Two Cities',” Stringer said, taking aim at Mayor Bill de Blasio and his 2013 campaign theme. “If anything, over the last eight years we've written more chapters,” he added.
“This city deserves leadership as good as its people, as tough, as creative and as determined,” said Stringer, “with a belief that we can and we must bring leadership back to City Hall and build a city for everyone.”
Stringer explained that this means addressing the city’s budget crisis, building more affordable housing, and investing in new jobs that will help the city rebuild out of the pandemic.
While some of his positions—pledging to raise taxes on the wealthiest New Yorkers and to make the largest investment in city backed child care of any city in America—seemed to echo de Blasio’s 2013 mayoral platform, the Manhattan Democrat also served up a damning assessment of the current administration, particularly in terms of his management of the New York City Police Department.
“As mayor, I'm going to say to the NYPD what Bill de Blasio has not: you work for the people of this city. And you are not an independent agency. You work for us,” said Stringer, who vowed to move noncriminal functions away from the department and committed to overhauling its disciplinary system. He also criticized de Blasio and Commissioner Dermot Shea for their handling of protests against police brutality, especially instances when officers appeared to use excessive force.
“The mayor and the police commissioner repeatedly excused the inexcusable, defended the indefensible, failed to take responsibility for violence against New Yorkers. That ends the day I'm sworn in as mayor,” Stringer said, slamming his hand on the podium.
Stringer has served as an elected official since 1993. He represented the Upper West Side in the New York State Assembly for 12 years, winning the seat previously held by Congressman Jarold Nadler. He went on to serve as Manhattan Borough President from 2005 to 2013, and then ran for City Comptroller after dropping out of the crowded 2013 mayoral field.
In the 2018 midterms, Stringer backed several young, progressive candidates who challenged incumbents in the state legislature and won. Several of those members returned the favor on Tuesday, praising Stringer’s credentials on issues from public education, to supporting the rights of survivors of sexual assault and harassment, to affordable housing.
Stringer becomes the first sitting elected official to formally launch his mayoral campaign. His announcement came the same day the New York Times reported that Kathryn Garcia, the city’s Sanitation Commissioner, is stepping down to eye a run for the office.
The city’s former Veteran’s Affairs Commissioner Loree Sutton has already launched a mayoral campaign. Other likely candidates include Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, New York City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, former Bloomberg and Obama administration official Shaun Donovan and Maya Wiley, former MSNBC Legal Affairs analyst and counsel to Mayor de Blasio.
A crowded field might play to Stringer’s advantage in the Democratic primary, which will take place for the first time for citywide municipal races in June, since the state legislature consolidated the primary. It will also be the first time the city uses ranked choice voting, which will allow voters to rank up to five candidates in order of preference. That also means there won’t be a run-off.
A reminder about ranked choice voting: if one candidate receives a majority of the vote, then it’s all done and a winner is declared. But if no one wins 51 percent, then the results will be re-tallied; the last place candidate will be eliminated and the votes from those ballots will be redistributed starting with the voters second choice. This process will repeat until one candidate has a majority of the votes and a winner can be declared.
Susan Lerner, head of Common Cause New York and a proponent of ranked choice voting said this new method of voting will likely affect how the candidates campaign. “What we have seen in cities that have ranked choice voting is that it really changes the campaign landscape. It discourages negative campaigning, it encourages candidates where their messages and policy positions are very similar to go out and say to voters, ‘rank us your first and second choices,’” Lerner said.
A glimpse of that was already on display at Stringer’s announcement when he was asked about what he thought about the potential candidacy of Sanitation Commissioner Garcia. While never saying her name, Stringer kept his comments all positive about his potential rival.
“I think we're building a great diverse field of candidates with different life experiences, different qualifications. And obviously, we're going to, you know, debate and discuss the issues,” Stringer said. “But I'm very happy that these candidates are coming in. From all places, all walks of life. And that's the best of New York.”