By 2 p.m., 65 people had cast votes at the Hostos Community College polling station in the South Bronx. Two hours later, an Upper West Side site at the National Council of Jewish Women tallied just 191 votes.
While worrisome to many voters, the low turnout for New York City primary elections on Tuesday appeared to be a glimmer of hope to Democratic mayoral challengers, some of whom suggested the low participation might give them the edge over incumbent Mayor Bill deBlasio. Each challenger entered the day’s contest trailing deBlasio by double-digits, according to polls.
“Low turnout!” tweeted former Brooklyn City Councilman Sal Albanese, the leading challenger to DeBlasio. “Every vote counts please get out there and cast your ballot.”
Activist Robert Gangi, who has run to DeBlasio’s left, said the low turnout “would consist of people who looked into the candidate—thoroughgoing progressives disappointed in deBlasio because he has shown that he is not one.”
Attorney Richard Bashner and entrepreneur Mike Tolkin were the other Democratic challengers to deBlasio on the ballot.
Albanese voted in Staten Island before holding campaign events in Chinatown, Throgs Neck, and Sunnyside.
James Li, a 51-year-old resident supporter of Albanese, said he cast “a protest vote against deBlasio.”
“I think that deBlasio has been focusing on his national political ambitions more than focusing on New York City’s needs,” Li said.
Li, of the Upper West Side, credited Albanese for proposing salves for the ailing New York City subway system.
In the afternoon, Gangi handed out literature to passersby at the 72nd Street and Broadway subway station, many of whom did not appear to recognize him.
Gangi said his campaign aimed to “send a message to the powers at be. Not only the mayor but the whole City Council.”
He declined to say how many votes he hoped to garner. “It might seem like I’m dodging the question because in part I am,” he said.
Anne Cunningham, an 81-year-old supporter of deBlasio, said she favors his effort to combat homelessness.
“I’m seeing more people on the street,” said Cunningham, who lives in the Upper West Side and acts as the senior citizen liaison for Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. “I’m very, very concerned about housing.”
Cunningham said she is also concerned about the dearth of voters.
“I’d like to see more people come out to vote,” she said. “We don’t have that many.”
Later in the day, Albanese moderated his enthusiasm, calling low voter turnout “a mixed bag.”
He added, “I always thought higher turnout was better for us. It’s a double-edged sword. deBlasio tamped down turnout. They have the political machines, but it helps us once people outside their sphere come out to vote. The other aspect is if deBlasio voters think he’s a shoe-in, they don’t come out. So it could be very positive for us.”
Only 19 minutes after the polls closed, NY1 declared de Blasio the winner.