By Joseph Ax
(Reuters) - Two weeks after the election to select the Democratic nominee for New York City mayor, city election officials are expected to release updated results on Tuesday, with Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams clinging to a slim lead.
Tuesday's tabulation using the city's new ranked-choice voting system should include absentee ballots for the first time, though it is not clear how many of the approximately 125,000 ballots will have been tallied.
The city's former sanitation chief, Kathryn Garcia, and civil rights attorney Maya Wiley remain in the running, thanks to ranked-choice ballots, which allowed voters to rank up to five candidates in order of preference.
The winner of the Democratic primary will be heavily favored in November's election against Republican nominee Curtis Sliwa, the founder of the Guardian Angels civilian patrol, given that Democratic voters outnumber Republicans in the city by more than a six-to-one margin.
The next mayor of the most populous U.S. city will oversee a still-nascent recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and will also confront several deep challenges, including a rise in crime, persistent wealth inequality, a troubled public school system and a lack of affordable housing.
The ranked-choice system operates as a series of instant runoffs, in which the candidate in last place is eliminated and his or her votes redistributed based on voters' second choice. That process, which avoids an expensive runoff election, repeats until there are only two candidates remaining.
Adams built a considerable lead on election night based on the first choices of voters who cast ballots in person. But when the city's Board of Elections ran its first ranked-choice analysis of in-person votes last week, Adams led Garcia by only two percentage points, or less than 15,000 votes.
Wiley, meanwhile, was fewer than 400 votes behind Garcia in third place.
Those results were released a day later than expected, after the board initially published erroneous figures before retracting them, saying it had inadvertently included 135,000 test ballots.
Voters are permitted to fix absentee errors through week's end, so final election results are not expected until next week.
All three candidates have expressed confidence in their chances at victory. Adams would be the second Black mayor in the city's history, while Garcia would be the first woman and Wiley the first Black woman to hold the office.
Adams, 60, a moderate Democrat and former police captain, centered his campaign on improving public safety. Garcia, 51, ran a technocratic campaign focused on her long experience in government.
Wiley, 57, is a former MSNBC analyst who emerged late in the race as the favorite of the party's liberal wing.
The election offered an early look at how national Democrats may approach the fraught issue of policing in next year's congressional midterm elections. Adams vowed to increase police on the streets, while Wiley proposed cutting one-sixth of the city's police budget to boost mental health support and other social services.
The incumbent mayor, Democrat Bill de Blasio, was not able to run for re-election due to term limits.
(Reporting by Joseph Ax; Editing by Bill Berkrot)