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Indian Americans Weigh in on Their Choice for New York City Mayor, Many Appear to Favor Eric Adams

Indian Americans Weigh in on Their Choice for New York City Mayor, Many Appear to Favor Eric Adams

  • While there seems to be overwhelming support for Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams from the South Asian American community, many progressives are leaning to Maya Wiley, as their first choice.

With a little over a week before the primaries for New York City Mayor, voters are scrutinizing the candidates and weighing their options carefully, choosing experience more than name recognition. 

The race has been in the spotlight for the past few months, with former Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang initially leading the crowded field of candidates vying to replace term-limited Mayor Bill de Blasio. Yang entered this race with no experience in politics, other than his 2020 presidential bid, but he quickly gained traction by pushing unconventional ideas like a universal basic income. However, after leading for more than a month, Yang’s grip on the mayoral race began to slip among donation scandals.

Currently, Brooklyn borough president Eric Adams is leading the polls, followed by Maya Wiley, former counsel to de Blasio, who recently received a boost by the high-profile endorsement of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, according to a new PIX11, NewsNation, Emerson College poll released on June 9. 

Adams, who has maintained a steady presence at or near the top of PIX11’s polls, led the survey with 23 percent of voter support. Rounding out the top five candidates were Andrew Yang at 15 percent; Kathryn Garcia at 12 percent; and city Comptroller Scott Stringer at 9 percent. Twelve percent of those polled said they were still undecided on who they will vote for in the Democratic primary.

Adams’ lead comes almost a week before the June 22 Democratic primary for mayor, and a few days prior to early voting which starts on June 12.

This year’s primary will be the city’s first to be determined by ranked choice voting, in which voters rank candidates by preference on their ballots. If a candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, he or she is declared the winner. If no candidate wins a majority of first-preference votes, the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes is eliminated.

New York Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar, fifth from left, with members of the Indian American community at an event for New York City mayoral candidate and Brooklyn borough president, Eric Adams, third from left, in Queens, N.Y., May 18. Top photo, New York Assemblywoman Rajkumar, with prominent members of the Bangladeshi American community at a rally for New York City mayoral candidate, Eric Adams, Brooklyn borough president, at Diversity Plaza in Queens, N.Y., June 7. “Had an amazing rally today for Eric Adams with Bangladeshi American leaders,” Rajkumar wrote on her social media handles. “When Eric Adams is Mayor the South Asian Community will have a voice in City Hall.”

American Kahani spoke to a few Indian American New Yorkers to find out their choice. Adams seemed to be the popular choice among the Indian American and the larger South Asian community. 

New York Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar, in a series of tweets, supported Adams for New York City Mayor. “Had an amazing rally today for Eric Adams with Bangladeshi American leaders,” she tweeted on June 7. “When Eric Adams is Mayor the South Asian Community will have a voice in City Hall.”

The Bangladeshi American community endorsed Adams in an event in the Jackson Heights section of Queens. “In Jackson Heights today with @DRichardsQNS, @jeniferrajkumar, members of the Bangladeshi community, and the New American Democratic Club as I proudly accepted their endorsement for Mayor,” Adams tweeted. 

Another staunch supporter of Adams is Hiren Chauhan, a serial entrepreneur and a FINTECH business leader. Chauhan, who has attended several campaign rallies for Adams, told American Kahani that the community has been rallying for Adams. “The Indian community is aware of Eric Adams and supports him,” Chauhan said, adding, “Adams is the symbol for race relationships. Along with the South Asian community, Chauhan said Adams enjoys support from the Chinese, Haitian and the Caribbean communities. He noted that  if elected mayor, Adams has openly committed to having an Indian American at the top position in his administration. “Representation is important to all of us,” Chauhan said. Speaking about Yang, he observed that while he started off being popular, he wasn’t “grounded” and hence lost his lead. 

Maya Wiley, former counsel to de Blasio.

Entrepreneur Ashok Vora, who owns restaurants and supermarkets in Queens told American Kahani that Adams in “very welcomed” in the South Asian communities. Vora, who says he knows Adams since he was a police officer and referee to him by first name. “Eric has a better chance at winning,” Vora says. According to him Adams would be neutral to all communities. “But most importantly, he will ensure that all New Yorkers are safe,” he said. “We all want to be alive, we don’t want to be shot and killed.” Vora said Adams is “easy to get along with,” “is not arrogant and is “an example of honesty.” He’s also heath conscious, Vora says – he does yoga and is a vegan.

Yang doesn’t seem to have a lot of support from the Indian American community. There was some initial curiosity about him, partly because of his Asian American background, as well as his outreach on social media platforms. “I think it does matter that Yang doesn’t have that experience — but he is an exciting charismatic candidate and I love that he is Asian American too,” actress Purva Bedi said in an earlier interview in April. “I think it is a tough job to be mayor and proving you’ve got what it takes to run things is very important.”

DRUM Beats, a sibling organization of Desis Rising Up & Moving, is encouraging New Yorkers  to rank Wiley as their No. 1 choice in the upcoming election, and then rank anybody except Yang and Adams, as you see fit. We need to keep Yang and Adams away from the leadership of our city. In an analysis on their support for Wiley, it said DRUM Beats and Desis Rising Up & Moving members conducted research together into all the mayoral candidates — “digging into their platforms, records, sources of donations, and past political relationships and practice. They grappled with real contradictions between our vision for New York City, what the mayoral candidates had to offer, the opportunities and threats posed by each candidate for our communities, and the candidate who had a real chance of winning. At this point in the race, Maya Wiley is that candidate.” 

Although the group’s “values and priorities are not aligned with Wiley,” the DRUM leadership says she’s “the only viable progressive remaining in the race and our best defense against far more dangerous candidates and forces.” Noting that Scott Stringer and Dianne Morales were contenders until internal tensions in their campaigns made them unviable as winning candidates, they say Wiley’s campaign is the only one “that has the potential for growth, to absorb undecided voters,.” They say the current leaders — Adams and Yang — “represent the most dangerous forces in NYC politics — police unions, real estate, privatization, and an intensification of neoliberal business as usual. Either one of them would be devastating for our members, and for working class communities across NYC. For these reasons and more, we propose that Left and Progressive forces work to support Maya Wiley’s campaign in order to block Andrew Yang and Eric Adams.”

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On social media, there was a little banter, especially among South Asian American progressive women about electing New York City’s first woman mayor. Wiley seemed to be their first choice – followed by Kathryn Garcia, the former commissioner of the New York City Sanitation Department, and Diane Morales, a former public school teacher and former executive director of The Door.

Artist Jaishri Abhichandani, former consultant curator at Ford foundation Gallery and former founder at South Asian Women’s Creative Collective, supports “Wiley all the way.” Although Wiley is “not as progressive as I would like,” Abhichandani says she is “100 percent here for a Black woman with her credentials as the mayor.” She says Wiley is “smart , capable, local and the best, most compassionate choice.” Her second choice is Garcia and “if Morales is still on the ticket then she would be third,” she says. But what about Andrew Yang? “Yang is truly awful. I am not even gonna rank him.”  

Gitesh Pandya, a PR professional is an independent, so he can’t vote in the primary, but he feels that “Maya Wiley stands out as a great person to lead New York City.”

Fashion designer and activist Mari Lynn Foulger, better known as Bob Bland wrote on her Facebook page: “New Yorkers, you DON’T HAVE TO RANK anyone you don’t want as Mayor of NYC. Just leave Yang & Adams off entirely!! Personally I’m ranking Maya Wiley #1- its a long past time for women to run this city.”

Many of them were still undecided, fluctuating from Yang to Adam to Wiley. Some like Bedi wondered if “the ranked choice system throws a new level of complexity into the mix.” 

Among those who’s still undecided is chef Geetika Khanna. “I’m rethinking Yang because he lacks experience,” she told American Kahani. “I’m leaning towards Eric Adams today, mostly because crime and public safety is a huge concern for me.” She adds: “But — I’m still quite torn. Maybe because this is such an important time for us to have the right leadership.” Khanna says this is the first time she hasn’t picked a candidate for sure. “I feel like I may not know till I pull the lever on Election Day.”

Without taking any names, Felicia Singh, a Democrat who is running for a City Council seat from District 32 told American Kahani that while identity certainly plays a part in how people vote, identity goes beyond race. “New Yorkers need a mayor who centers working-class people and co-governs with them,” she said. “We need a mayor who listens to the people closest to the problem, and works with organizations on the ground who have built genuine relationships with marginalized communities. We need a mayor who truly understands the health threat that racism is, and how our current systems compound the alienation, violence, and suppression POC experience in our city.” Singh said the candidate she will rank number one is the person “who commits to fully funding our schools and communities, and who demonstrates aligned values through their campaign – who they accept donations from, who they invest in through staffing, and who they listen to as they form their policies.”

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The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and editorial policies of American Kahani.
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