New York City’s local elections are in full bloom, and all through town, Democrats are having a rollicking time.
On Saturday night, Maya Wiley supporters were treated to a concert by the Strokes. Last week, outside the first in-person mayoral debate last week, rival campaigns gathered on West 57th Street. Instead of a brawl, though, a dance party broke out. Paperboy Prince, a rapper running for mayor, belted out a tune about affordable housing.
“House, everybody needs a house!” he shouted as voters bopped to the beat and nodded in approval.
In the crowd, Moises Perez of Washington Heights said Ms. Wiley was No. 1 on his ranked-choice ballot in the June 22 primary because she was “unapologetic about her progressivism.” Also, he said, “New York City needs a woman, a Black woman, for a change.”
Nearby, supporters of Eric Adams and Maya Wiley put aside their differences over whether to defund the police and danced together in a circle, rocking out to the Pharrell Williams song “Happy.”
After suffering through four years of Donald Trump — and eight years of Mayor Bill de Blasio — New York Democrats are in the mood to celebrate. The only problem? Democracy in New York City has become a one-party show.
Before Mr. de Blasio was first elected in 2013, Republicans ran New York City for two decades. Now Democrats outnumber Republicans more than six to one. Primarily, that’s because the city has grown more liberal, while the Republican Party has grown reactionary and out of touch.
The victor in the June 22 Democratic primary is so widely expected to win in November that the right-wing New York Post didn’t bother endorsing in the Republican mayoral primary.
“It’s a joke,” Joe Lhota, the 2013 Republican nominee for mayor, said of the G.O.P. mayoral candidates. “These guys are buffoons.” Mr. Lhota is now a Democrat.
The progressive Working Families Party has more sway in New York than the Republican Party and is a helpful antidote to the state’s often oppressive Democratic machine. Even so, many candidates backed by the Working Families Party also run on the Democratic line. This year, the party endorsed Ms. Wiley, as well as 30 Democrats running for City Council.
Given the rancor of national politics, there’s been something reassuringly familiar about the tone of the campaign here, with candidates and canvassers politely trying to persuade voters in parks and at farmers markets.
Near the Brooklyn Bridge on Saturday, a diverse group of Eric Adams supporters that included off-duty police officers and emergency medical workers were treated to a mariachi band. Jennifer Aguiluz said her E.M.T. union, Local 2507, backed Mr. Adams for mayor because he supports a plan to raise E.M.T.s’ pay, which has long lagged far behind firefighters’ in the same agency. “He understands blue-collar workers,” said Ms. Aguiluz, who is a member of the union’s executive board.
After the country was nearly lost to Trumpism, the questions about whether Mr. Adams, the front-runner in the mayoral primary, really lives in New York City at all are sort of quaint. (Mr. Adams says he lives in the basement of a home he owns in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn.)
Even Brad Lander’s dad jokes are soothing. “They call me Dad-Lander,” Mr. Lander, a city comptroller candidate, told a small crowd at Brooklyn’s Fort Greene Park on Saturday as people with Black Lives Matter signs looked on.
Less soothing was Andrew Yang’s rally on Sunday in the West Village, where a large group of enthusiastic supporters packed into a small space, many of them maskless, prompting this reporter to head for the exit.
Seriously, though, one-party elections hardly make New York the Shangri-La of democracy.
For one thing, voter turnout in local elections in New York City remains abysmal. In 2017, the year Mr. de Blasio cruised to re-election, just over 21 percent of registered voters filled out a ballot.
Democratic politics in the city is flooded with the same special interests and money that undermine trust in government everywhere. The most depressing example this year is the race for Manhattan district attorney. Alvin Bragg remains the best candidate. Unfortunately, his opponent, Tali Farhadian Weinstein — who is married to a hedge fund manager and has raised millions, including hundreds of thousands from financial firms in the city — just poured $8 million of her own money into her campaign.
And it is still harder to cast a ballot in New York than it is in several Republican-controlled states. North Carolina, for example, has same-day voter registration, something New York State can finally adopt if voters approve a constitutional amendment this November. Let’s hope they do: New York elections need more competition, not less.