My recent opinion piece, A Time to Choose, drew more comments, both positive and negative, than all the other articles I have written in this newspaper over the past eight years put together. My goal in writing the piece was to alert you to the dangers of some of the candidates running in the upcoming Primary and to stimulate discussion.
Leaders in Jewish communities throughout the City are supporting Eric Adams for Mayor. They feel comfortable with his long record of support for our community. As an African-American former police officer, he is uniquely qualified to keep us safe. If you agree with that, you should rank Eric Adams #1 for Mayor.
Andrew Yang has come to our community more recently but has shown a great deal of understanding and sympathy for our needs. Many of our community leaders in Kew Gardens Hills have endorsed him, believing that he will have a special affinity for the Queens community. If you agree with that, you should rank Andrew Yang #1.
Kathryn Garcia is also reaching out to our community. People believe that her administrative experience and creative ideas make her the best candidate for Mayor. If you agree with that, you should rank Kathryn Garcia #1.
What we all need to understand is that the candidate we need to stop is Maya Wiley, who has called Benjamin Netanyahu a racist and said, “We can’t ignore the suffering of the Palestinian people.” All of us need to rank Eric Adams, Kathryn Garcia, and Andrew Yang in whatever order to be sure that one of them will defeat Wiley.
People who feel strongly about ranking a particular candidate as #1 should extoll the virtues of their candidate, not tear down others in the community because of a difference of opinion over the order in which candidates should be ranked. Spirited debate is the essence of democracy. It is also central to Judaism. Almost every page of the Gemara is filled with arguments. But the debate should take place in the spirit of a “machlokes l’sheim Shamayim,” with mutual respect.
In last week’s issue, I listed four candidates to rank in the City Council Primary in District 23, stressing the need to defeat Jaslin Kaur, who is endorsed by the Democratic Socialists of America and AOC. Developments since then have made it clear that Linda Lee is the candidate best placed to defeat Kaur. So, my revised recommendation for City Council District 23 is: 1) Linda Lee 2) Debra Markel 3) Harpeet Toor 4) Steve Behar.
The ranked-choice voting system may be difficult to understand, but we can use it to our advantage. Under the old system, whoever finished first in the primary was the winner. A person who got 25% of the vote was the winner even though the other 75% of the voters would have preferred anyone but that person. We often had to choose between a candidate we really liked but who did not have a chance to win or supporting someone else with whom we disagreed on many issues but who had a better chance of defeating somebody we felt was unacceptable.
Under ranked-choice voting, you can rank up to five candidates, from 1 to 5. The first-place votes are counted. If someone receives a majority, that person is the winner. If not, the last place finisher is eliminated, and his/her votes are reallocated to the next choice. This continues until someone wins a majority. Under this system, a candidate with a significant following but who is unacceptable to the majority of the voters may well have the most votes in the first round, but is likely to be defeated in the later rounds by someone who is more acceptable to most voters. You can rank a candidate you really like as #1, candidates who are okay as #2 and #3, and candidates you disagree with on many things but are preferable to the alternative as #4 and #5.
The key idea to understand is that it is critical to rank as many candidates as you can, to defeat those who are most hostile to our interests. If you only vote for your first choice, and that candidate falls short, your vote will not count in the later rounds in which the results will actually be decided. You may well need to rank candidates you do not like because they are better than the alternative.
I shared my rankings of the candidates last week to stimulate discussion. They are the opinions of one person. I urge you to research the candidates on your own. Discuss the primary with your family, friends, and neighbors, and cast your own informed and effective vote.
In more than 40 years of being active in politics, I have never prayed to win an election – and I do not intend to start now. My prayer going into this year’s Primary will be the same as it has always been: May the One who grants dominion to kings, help all of us to choose wisely and give our elected leaders the wisdom and the compassion to do what is right for the Jewish people and for all New Yorkers. That is something on which we can all agree.