We don’t know what happened in 2001. We can’t be sure we’ll ever find out for sure, or when. And it’s unclear that it will really affect the 2021 mayoral race, where Eric Adams and Andrew Yang continue to appear dominant.

Morales, Wiley, Garcia and Adams campaigns

Who—if anyone—will benefit from the allegations that have tainted Scott Stringer’s candidacy? Dianne Morales (left), Maya Wiley (top), Kathryn Garcia (bottom) and Eric Adams (right) seem likely beneficiaries, though it’s possible no one will gain very much.

Within a span of five hours on Tuesday, the lawyer for Jean Kim, the woman who has accused Scott Stringer of sexual misconduct in 2001, said she’d filed an official complaint with the state attorney general; a news outlet published a story raising questions about Kim’s story; and another progressive organization—Citizen Action—yanked its endorsement of the embattled comptroller. 

The next day, a private survey showed Eric Adams pushing Andrew Yang out of the lead in the mayoral race, Stringer holding on to about as much support as he’s ever demonstrated in polls, and none of the three women in the contest—Kathryn Garcia, Dianne Morales or Maya Wiley—really in the running, even though two of them (the more progressive Morales and Wiley) were thought to be likely beneficiaries of Stringer’s flagging prospects. 

They were just two days and one poll, but together it all seemed to illustrate the three-layered uncertainty that the allegations against Stringer have introduced into the race. It is unclear whether the accusations or Stringer’s defense are true, uncertain whether we will ever get a definitive answer to that question, and unknown whether it will matter to the outcome of the very unusual 2021 mayoral campaign.

“I think we’re all in a sort of uncomfortable situation here and it’s not one that any one of us want to be in where we have to sort of evaluate in some ways this truth claim from something that happened 20 years ago and do it 50 days before the election,” David Freedlander, a New York magazine contributor who wrote about Stringer’s predicament this week, told the WBAI Max & Murphy Show on Wednesday. “I think it’s certainly fair to say that we will never know what happened between them. We also know that women tend to not come forward with false accusations very often. We also know this is a highly charged political environment.”

“It’s unclear if any of this were to really matter,” Freedlander continued. “There’s a sort of political reality to this that sort of trumps whatever happened in a taxicab or whatever is alleged happened 20 years ago.”

Sally Goldenberg, Politico’s City Hall bureau chief, said that while the new survey might not show it, there are some fairly clear indications of whose prospects have improved thanks to Stringer’s crisis. 

“On the left, Dianne Morales for sure. I think she was always a candidate who was more exciting to people who have pretty hardline progressive values than Scott Stringer was. His argument was always viability. She definitely is more aligned with that camp. I think it’s fair to say she has momentum. I think had momentum before this,” Goldenberg said, pointing to some recent endorsements Morales has won and her large roster of small donors—a demonstration of grassroots strength.

Overall, “Eric Adams clearly has the momentum,” Goldenberg said. “And I think you’re seeing a little boom-let for Kathryn Garcia. She was in the New York Times. She was in the New Yorker. She’s on air. She’s getting more endorsements. She has a steep hill to climb but … from the perspective of media and institutional  support, which is important—it’s not everything, but it’s important—she seems to be on the upswing.”

The survey Politico reported on Wednesday seems to indicate that two other candidates who’ve not registered well in most polls, Shaun Donovan and Ray McGuire, were running a distant fourth and fifth, respectively—but still ahead of Garcia, Morales and Wiley.

Hear Ben Max and my discussion and the two conversations below. My chat with Freedlander commences at about the 12:40 mark and Ben Max’s talk with Goldenberg begins at 27:00.


David Freedlander and Sally Goldenberg on the state of the mayoral race

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