Andrew Yang and Kathryn Garcia campaigned together on Saturday in a show of unity that their top rival, Eric Adams, sought to portray as racially motivated.
Andrew Yang and Kathryn Garcia, two leading candidates in the New York City mayor’s race, joined each other on the campaign trail on Saturday, a late alliance that the contest’s front-runner, Eric Adams, immediately sought to portray as an attempt to weaken the voice of minority voters.
Mr. Yang and Ms. Garcia stopped short of an official cross-endorsement, with Mr. Yang urging voters to rank Ms. Garcia second on their ballots but Ms. Garcia refraining from doing the same for him. Still, the two distributed fliers at a rally in Queens that featured their photos and names side by side.
“Rank me No. 1 and then rank Kathryn Garcia No. 2,” Mr. Yang said.
The display of unity, just three days before the Democratic primary scheduled for Tuesday, appeared to be aimed at Mr. Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, who has been leading in the polls. Mr. Yang and Ms. Garcia are centrists in the top tier of candidates who are trying to stop Mr. Adams’s momentum, and theirs was the first major alliance under ranked-choice voting.
The new voting system, in which voters can list up to five candidates on a ballot in ranked preference, has made campaign strategies more complicated. Candidates are not just asking for votes; they need to persuade as many of their rivals’ backers as possible to rank them second or third. If Mr. Yang and Ms. Garcia can persuade their supporters not to rank Mr. Adams, that could significantly hurt him.
Mr. Adams inserted the notion that Mr. Yang and Ms. Garcia were playing racial politics, a provocative claim that his campaign attempted to back up by distributing statements from several of his more prominent supporters, including the former Gov. David A. Paterson and the Bronx borough president, Rubén Díaz Jr., who echoed the accusation.
Mr. Adams said that the alliance between Mr. Yang and Ms. Garcia was aimed at preventing a “person of color” from winning the race.
“For them to come together like they are doing in the last three days, they’re saying we can’t trust a person of color to be the mayor of the City of New York when this city is overwhelmingly people of color,” Mr. Adams said.
At a separate news conference, Mr. Yang responded, “I would tell Eric Adams that I’ve been Asian my entire life.” (Mr. Adams clarified that he was accusing Mr. Yang and Ms. Garcia of trying to prevent a Black or Latino person from becoming mayor.)
“We heard Kathryn talk about how Yang treated her as a woman,” Mr. Adams said. “We heard how she felt he did not have the experience, the know-how, to run the city.”
Ms. Garcia and Mr. Yang dismissed Mr. Adams’s allegations.
“I’m not even going to respond to that,” Ms. Garcia said. Her campaign later released a statement that accused Mr. Adams of “resorting to divisive politics that erode New York City’s democracy.”
Mr. Yang, however, still made it clear that the rally was aimed at Mr. Adams, whom Mr. Yang has criticized in the past as a corrupt and unprincipled politician.
“There’s some candidates I do not think should be anywhere near City Hall,” Mr. Yang said before adding, in reference to the police captains’ union and to Mr. Adams, who is a former police captain, “One of them — his union endorsed me this week, and that should be all you need to know.”
Ms. Garcia was more circumspect, even about her alliance with Mr. Yang. She praised Mr. Yang and said they shared some of the same stances, but said she would not ask her supporters to rank him second.
“I am not telling my voters what to do,” Ms. Garcia told reporters at a news conference in Manhattan, adding that she would be open to campaigning with other candidates.
A victory by any of the four leading candidates would be momentous: Mr. Adams would be the city’s second Black mayor; Ms. Garcia would be the first female mayor; and Mr. Yang would be the first Asian American mayor. Maya Wiley, a former counsel to Mayor Bill de Blasio, would be the first Black female mayor.
The Rev. Al Sharpton, who has not made an endorsement in the race, said that candidates should be free to make their own strategic decisions about how to encourage voter turnout.
“My sense is, everybody should do whatever they can to get the vote out,” he said. “I think it would be good if the other candidates teamed up, too, to get the vote out.”
Indeed, aides to Ms. Garcia, who has been trying to increase her support in the Black community, said that the campaign of Raymond J. McGuire, a Black candidate and a former Wall Street executive, had contacted her campaign two weeks ago to discuss a cross-endorsement. After a forum, Ms. Garcia approached Mr. McGuire and said, “We should talk.”
Ms. Garcia wanted access to the base of Black support that Mr. McGuire had cultivated in Harlem and southeast Queens, and she wanted an introduction to Representative Gregory W. Meeks and Assemblyman Robert J. Rodriguez, both of whom had endorsed Mr. McGuire as their first choice. Ms. Garcia wanted to visit a subway stop in southeast Queens with Mr. McGuire or take a trip to the Bronx with Mr. Rodriguez.
The plan was progressing until Mr. McGuire’s campaign leaders changed their minds, feeling that the cross-endorsement would not help them because they already had white supporters, according to a person familiar with the matter.
“It didn’t work out,” Annika Reno, a spokeswoman for Ms. Garcia, said, confirming the negotiations.
Ms. Wiley suggested on Saturday that she, too, had been offered the opportunity to campaign with Mr. Yang and Ms. Garcia. But she said she “couldn’t do it” after Mr. Yang’s comments at the final debate about wanting to get people with mental health problems off the streets.
The campaigns of Mr. Yang and Ms. Garcia both denied that Ms. Wiley had been invited to Saturday’s events.
Ms. Wiley declined to criticize the joint appearance of Ms. Garcia and Mr. Yang, even as she seemed to dismiss the possibility of doing something similar.
“Candidates gonna candidate,” she said on Saturday. “I’m going to talk to people.”
Ms. Wiley also received an endorsement on Saturday from Alessandra Biaggi, a prominent state senator, another sign of momentum for Ms. Wiley among progressive leaders. Ms. Biaggi had endorsed Scott M. Stringer, the city comptroller, but withdrew her support after he was accused of sexual misconduct.
Mr. Sharpton suggested that Mr. Adams’s strategy appeared to be centered on attracting as many Black and Latino voters as possible in places like the Bronx, Central Harlem and Central Brooklyn, and making inroads with moderate white voters. Public polls suggest that Mr. Adams has a clear advantage with Black voters, but Mr. Yang and Ms. Garcia are also competing for Latino and moderate white voters.
“He’ll get some moderate white voters because of his crime stand,” Mr. Sharpton said of Mr. Adams. “With this uptick in violence, he’s the one that’s taken the definitive stand in terms of public safety.”
The Yang-Garcia event did cost Ms. Garcia a ranked-choice vote from Jumaane Williams, the city’s public advocate. Mr. Williams had endorsed Ms. Wiley as his first choice and announced his secondary choices on Saturday, among them Mr. Adams.
Ms. Garcia’s alliance with Mr. Yang, he said, was enough to exclude her from his ballot. “As I’ve said previously, while I have concerns about multiple candidates, at this point I’m singularly most concerned about Andrew Yang for mayor,” he said.
Mr. Adams, for his part, seemed to be having fun on the campaign trail. At Orchard Beach in the Bronx, he appeared in swimming trunks, grinning and waving at beachgoers who called out greetings from the sand. Then Mr. Adams waded out into the water.
Reporting was contributed by Anne Barnard, Katie Glueck and Michael Gold.