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Ranked choice voting takes centers stage in New York City mayoral election. USA TODAY

NEW YORK – The polls have closed in the Big Apple as New Yorkers voted Tuesday to pick their next mayor, but, with the city’s new ranked choice voting system, don’t expect to know the winner tonight.

Brooklyn Borough President and former police captain Eric Adams was leading Tuesday in partial results released in the New York City mayoral primary, but only the first choice preferences of early and in-person votes were being released for now. 

With almost 90% of those votes counted, Adams had nearly 31% of first-choice votes; former counsel to Mayor Bill de Blasio Maya Wiley was in second with 21%; and former sanitation department head Kathryn Garcia and entrepreneur turned political hopeful Andrew Yang trailed in third and fourth with about 21% and 12%, respectively.

Yang, who was once considered Adams’ toughest competition in the race, conceded Tuesday night based on the initial return. “I am not going to be the next mayor of New York City,” he said.

Because no candidate is expected to win a majority of first-choice preferences, voters’ preferences will be redistributed in the ranked choice system, with the first batch of ranked choice results released next week.

Adams would be the city’s second Black mayor. He’s made public safety his campaign’s central message while also appealing to his past advocacy in politics calling for reforms to the city’s police department.

With Wiley and Garcia, the city could elect its first woman as mayor. Yang would have been the city’s first Asian American mayor.

New York City mayoral race: What to know about the candidates, issues and why a ‘progressive’ isn’t leading the way

At the ballot box, voters could select up to five candidates. While the calculation to redistribute voters’ preferences as candidates are eliminated is done electronically, state law allows for absentee ballots to trickle in over the next week. Those votes could be the deciding factor in the tightly contested race.

After releasing the ranked choice results of early and in-person votes, the city’s Board of Elections expects to release the ranked choice preferences of absentee ballots beginning July 6. Some estimates have the winner not being known until mid-July.

The crowded Democratic field featured eight major candidates and centered on the issues of crime and New York’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It is truly one of the most, if not the most important election that we’ve seen simply because of (the pandemic) and how do you come back,” said Sid Davidoff, a senior adviser to former Mayor John Lindsay. “Then the question becomes: Who best leads in this city going into these next couple years?”

NYC has never elected a woman as mayor: Will one of these women change that?

The Democratic incumbent, de Blasio, is leaving office after reaching his term limit. He did not endorse any candidate nor did any candidate, except Yang, say they wanted his endorsement.  

Adams had been a front-runner for much of the race and leading in many major polls conducted in its final weeks. In addition to his public safety message, the Brooklyn native also pledged to address racial inequities in the city. However, he also faced sharp criticism after a POLITICO report detailed discrepancies in his property and campaign records.

Wiley, meanwhile, was the progressive favorite as the race narrowed and she won the backing of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y. Wiley has pledged to divert some police funds to mental health and homelessness services as well as schools.

More on Maya Wiley: New York City’s mayoral race is all about police, crime. Will Ocasio-Cortez endorsement give progressives a boost?

Yang and Garcia, who had recently formed a sort of alliance amid the ranked choice system, both more closely mirrored Adams on the issue of policing. Garcia also made climate change a large part of her campaign. Yang has promised to bring a local version of his universal basic income plan to New York, which he ran on in the 2020 presidential race.

There are more than 3 million registered Democratic voters compared with about half a million registered Republican voters in the city, so the winner of the Democratic primary is likely to cruise to victory in November. 

In the Republican race, Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa was leading businessman Fernando Mateo.

More than 200,000 voters requested absentee ballots, and more than 87,000 had been returned as of Monday.

Trailing the front of the pack in the Democratic race was Scott Stringer in fifth, Ray McGuire in sixth, Dianne Morales in seventh and Shaun Donovan in eight. Several other minor candidates also received slivers of the vote.

Also being decided was the race for Manhattan District Attorney. The incumbent, Cyrus Vance, is stepping down amid his office’s investigation into former President Donald Trump and his family’s businesses.

Former federal prosecutor Alvin Bragg was narrowly leading Tali Farhadian Weinstein, also a former federal prosecutor, Tuesday. That election was not using ranked choice voting.

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