Our columnists and contributors give their rankings.
Published: 2021-06-16 11:41 pm
The N.Y.C. Mayoral Debate's Winners and Losers
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Welcome to the Times Opinion scorecard for New York City’s final Democratic mayoral debate before Tuesday’s primary. A mix of Times writers and outside political experts assessed the performances of the eight leading candidates and rated them on a scale of 1 to 10. One means the candidate should definitely not be running the city or even a Starbucks; 10 means he or she is ready to succeed Mayor Bill de Blasio. Early voting is now underway for those who want to cast ballots before Tuesday.

Gerson Borrero (7/10) — As the leading candidate in the polls, his mission was to avoid getting knocked out or badly bruised. Mission accomplished. Eric didn’t exactly float like a butterfly or sting like a bee, but he bobbed and weaved, thus avoiding losing points.

Michelle Goldberg (8/10) — He was relaxed and empathetic, especially talking about going to school with his clothes in a trash bag in case his family was evicted. The other candidates missed their last chance to take him down.

Christina Greer (7/10) — Zen Eric Adams. With less than a week to go Adams refused to be goaded into a fight. He got the memo he’s the front-runner and behaved as such.

Celeste Katz Marston (7/10) — Presented a well-calibrated mix of career credentials and lived experience. Exuded slightly less confidence than the previous debate. Yang seemed to set him back on his heels a bit regarding union endorsements.

Luis A. Miranda Jr. (7/10) — Best prophetic words: “If we don’t educate, we will incarcerate.”

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Credit...Jordan Gale for The New York Times

Brent Staples (6/10) — Seemed shaken and less steady than usual. (Something in the polls, perhaps?) He undercut himself by stumbling over answers he would usually nail.

Eleanor Randolph (6/10) — Calm in the face of mini-attacks that he seemed to shed quickly and easily. Asked what cuts he would demand from many unions that support him, he said he would get their help. They know where the fat is.

Grace Rauh (8/10) — Sprinkled vivid and compelling stories from his life throughout the debate to powerful effect. Exuded confidence and cool.

Howard Wolfson (5/10) — Bad time to have his worst debate performance. Yang’s attacks seemed to throw him and he never really looked comfortable after that. It could have been worse: Neither the moderators nor the other candidates brought up the recent controversies over his real estate holdings.

Kathryn Wylde (10/10) — When Eric says, “It’s expensive to be poor in New York City,” he knows whereof he speaks. He has lived through every challenge a mayor can face. Could there be any better preparation for the second toughest job in America?

Gerson Borrero (3/10) — ¡Bendito! After the millions his father has spent on his son’s candidacy, Donovan just doesn’t have an interesting reason for wanting the job he feels so qualified for. He’s never connected with Neoyorquinos and he proved that again. Adiós, Shaun.

Michelle Goldberg (4/10) — Whenever there was a spicy exchange, he’d drone that New Yorkers didn’t tune in to hear a fight. Speak for yourself!

Christina Greer (6/10) — Had this version of Shaun Donovan showed up a few months earlier, he’d be polling much higher. Donovan finally stopped leaning on Obama and finally highlighted what Donovan would do. It is likely too late.

Celeste Katz Marston (6/10) — Clearly attempted to stake out the adult-in-the-room turf by intervening in bickering between others Not clear he cast himself and his leadership credentials in a bright new light for many voters.

Luis A. Miranda Jr. (5/10) — A candidate who is saying the right things but not connecting.

Credit...Jordan Gale for The New York Times

Brent Staples (5/10) — The preambles to his answers are still overlong. He seemed rocked by the question about attending a public event at which an insult was hurled at the police.

Eleanor Randolph (6/10) — Ready with a plan for every question. A good night for him, especially when he kept saying viewers didn’t want to hear candidates bickering.

Grace Rauh (5/10) — Spent much of the night admonishing his opponents for getting into fights. Tried to act like the adult in the room, pivoting to policy at every chance.

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Howard Wolfson (6/10) — Got to talk at length about housing and homelessness, two areas of real expertise. At this point though just playing out the string and wondering how so much money was spent for so little return.

Kathryn Wylde (5/10) — Shaun has solid plans for solving every problem confronting the city, which should be a valuable resource to the next mayor.

Gerson Borrero (7/10) — Her message is consistent: I get stuff done. It’s that simple. Plain, direct and without drama, theatrics or raising her voice. Garcia is offering experience that doesn’t have to be scripted. She knows what makes the city run.

Michelle Goldberg (5/10) — That monotone. My eight-year-old walked in and said, “She sounds dead inside.” (She’s still one of my top two.)

Christina Greer (6/10) — Once again it was easy to forget Garcia was at the debate. Low on specifics unless pressed. Even lower on energy.

Celeste Katz Marston (6/10) — Consistently steady or slightly flat? Better than many others in giving specific, concise answers. Summed up the entire ethos of her run by saying she’s running to do the job of mayor, not score the title.

Luis A. Miranda Jr. (6/10) — Saying over and over that I have managed and can manage is not enough to convince voters.

Credit...Gus Powell for The New York Times

Brent Staples (7/10) — Exuded competence. Consistently the clearest, most direct answers on policy questions — especially affordable housing and education.

Eleanor Randolph (7/10) — Promised to roll up her sleeves and be the fix-it mayor in “complicated times.” She would buy back guns, ban corn syrup, and wants her legacy to be a “new green New York City.”

Grace Rauh (6/10) — Garcia isn’t a natural on the debate stage, but since she’s running on her management chops and experience as a go-to fixer in city government, does it matter?

Howard Wolfson (7/10) — Declared “I am not running to get the title of mayor. I am running to do the job of mayor,” and made her case with facts and data. Stayed mostly above the fray and out of the fire — but was she too cool? Once again avoided talking about herself to her detriment.

Kathryn Wylde (9/10) — Kathryn’s rise from unknown to the front of the pack redeems one’s faith in the pragmatic common sense of New York voters. Totally believable when she says, “I am not running to get the title of mayor. I am running to do the job of mayor.”

Gerson Borrero (8/10) — Holy guacamole! Where has THIS Ray been? The rookie came prepared to go the distance. He explained his plan and pushed back on opponents. Maybe voters will give him a closer look, but the debate still didn’t catapult him into the top.

Michelle Goldberg (4/10) — His insistence that no one else knew how to manage a budget got tired quickly.

Christina Greer (6/10) — If the primary were held in September, McGuire would be one to watch. He’s slowly getting the swing of things, but the election is less than a week away and the “career politicians” appear to have made a greater impact.

Celeste Katz Marston (5/10) — Feisty and in the mix, but at times a little didactic on budgetary issues. Points for the most ambitious inaugural concert lineup.

Luis A. Miranda Jr. (5/10) — Delivered best line of the night in referring to his opponents: “Talking loud, saying nothing.”

Credit...James Estrin/The New York Times

Brent Staples (5/10) — The schtick about being the outsider with the Wall Street budget savvy has worn thin.

Eleanor Randolph (7/10) — Came with daggers drawn. Went after Wiley for lack of broadband — her job with Mayor de Blasio. Took on Stringer and his pensions as comptroller. Kept making it clear that unlike the others, “I’m clearly an outsider. I don’t owe any political favors. I don’t owe anybody anything.”

Grace Rauh (7/10) — Reminded us again he’s not a politician, but success in the private sector — even at the highest levels — doesn’t necessarily translate into strength on the political stage. That said, he brought some fire to the debate.

Howard Wolfson (6/10) — Recovered from a near incoherent opening to give excellent answers on education and housing. Accused the other candidates of “talking loud” and “saying nothing” and consistently focused on establishing his credentials as an outsider.

Kathryn Wylde (6/10) — Regardless of the outcome of this race, Ray has an important role to play in the future of our city.

Gerson Borrero (5/10) — Despite all the recent bad headlines, I was impressed with the clarity of Morales’s solutions and platform. While most Neoyorquinos are not buying her candidacy, I suspect she’ll be part of either a Garcia or Adams administration.

Michelle Goldberg (4/10) — Half her answers sounded like social justice mad libs.

Christina Greer (5/10) — Showed up with energy and fervor as the underdog. With less than a week to go, her progressive bona fides (and campaign drama) may not move her standing in the polls with Wiley as an alternative.

Celeste Katz Marston (5/10) — Avoided sustaining (more) damage vis a vis the turmoil in her campaign. Remained intensely loyal to her progressive platform; exhibited little effort to build a bigger tent.

Luis A. Miranda Jr. (5/10) — She was the most genuine of all candidates — personalizing mental health issues set her apart from the platitudes of others.

Credit...Laylah Amatullah Barrayn for The New York Times

Brent Staples (5/10) — She demonstrated composure but is still too jargony and ethereal in many of her public policy answers.

Eleanor Randolph (4/10) — She tried to fast talk her way back into the race as the ultraprogressive despite competition, especially from Maya Wiley. Wants to “dismantle” the racist education system and keep police off the subways.

Grace Rauh (4/10) — Had a strong moment when talking about mental health challenges New Yorkers are facing, but voters would have benefited from having fewer candidates onstage.

Howard Wolfson (6/10) — Passionately declaring herself on the side of “the people” and insisting that we reject “systems that oppress our communities,” Morales rebounded from a poor showing last debate to once again clearly stake out the boldest and most progressive space.

Kathryn Wylde (5/10) — For the first time, Dianne’s deep experience as a nonprofit executive and connectivity with the Latinx communities of the city was compelling. Wish we had seen that earlier.

Gerson Borrero (5/10) — Try as he may to sound like the adult onstage, it didn’t work. As he bragged about how prepared he is, it dawned on me that he’s been comptroller since 2014. What has he done?

Michelle Goldberg (6/10) — Nothing animated him quite so much as his contempt for Andrew Yang.

Christina Greer (7/10) — Concise answers and definitely didn’t shy away from a brawl. Not sure how many New Yorkers are still interested in a Stringer mayoralty at this point in the campaign.

Celeste Katz Marston (6/10) — Steadily better at playing up his major qualification — serving as comptroller. Probably didn’t hurt himself any, but some of his go-to lines sounded threadbare after multiple debates.

Luis A. Miranda Jr. (6/10) — Failed to connect his vast experience with his vision for the future.

Credit...Jordan Gale for The New York Times

Brent Staples (7/10) — Projected leadership while remaining composed, conversational and mainly above the fray. He provided solid answers on fiscally related matters.

Eleanor Randolph (5/10) — Stringer was steady, somber and less combative, noting that he already has his legacy by shedding $4 billion in fossil fuel investments as comptroller.

Grace Rauh (6/10) — He attacked Yang for calling for more housing for mentally ill New Yorkers. Suggested it would cost too much. Not a great look. Yang’s reply: “We can’t afford not to do this.”

Howard Wolfson (7/10) — “How would I do it? Here’s the specifics.” Was detailed and knowledgeable, showing glimpses again of the campaign that might have been before being derailed by accusations of sexual misconduct.

Kathryn Wylde (7/10) — Scott is the progressive in this race who understands the limits of city government resources. Totally convincing that he could provide “a teaching moment” to everyone on the stage.

Gerson Borrero (5/10) — Where was Wiley? Her closing argument was weak. I wish she had spent less time being defensive about her years with BDB and more time laying out with clarity why she has the most progressive plan for NYC.

Michelle Goldberg (7/10) — She managed to speak to both fears about crime and about the police. Her best debate.

Christina Greer (7/10) — Doubled down and solidified her position as the progressive candidate … and the foil to Eric Adams. With crime on the rise, it’s a big gamble.

Celeste Katz Marston (7/10) — Much smoother, more controlled performance than in the last debate, with far fewer cases of ignoring time limits and personal sniping. Assertive, especially on civil rights and law enforcement. Was it a game-changer, though?

Luis A. Miranda Jr. (7/10) — Did a great job at connecting policies with simple actions to impact people’s lives.

Credit...Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

Brent Staples (6/10) — She recovered from miscues in the last debate, but descends too deeply into minutia in her answers.

Eleanor Randolph (7/10) — Her anger was tangible. She railed about the inequities in the city and gave passionate descriptions of life on the streets. A progressive’s rallying cry.

Grace Rauh (6/10) — Do you get points or lose points when you use the term “Maya-mentum” in a debate and your name is Maya? I’m still trying to decide.

Howard Wolfson (7/10) — Feeling the “Maya-mentum” as she called it, Wiley effectively drew Adams into a back-and-forth on crime that allowed her to present her progressive vision. She’s bet big that New Yorkers would rather have violence interrupters and trauma-informed care instead of more cops on the subway.

Kathryn Wylde (7/10) — Maya performed well for her progressive followers, but her many big spending promises are completely unrealistic. (Her former boss plans to spend or obligate every available nickel before she gets a shot at the city budget.)

Gerson Borrero (4/10) — Total lightweight. Most polls show he’s lost his front-runner status so you’d think there’d be adjustments to his message. Nada. Also doesn’t understand that the majority of Democrats could give a pigeon’s poop about the police captains’ union endorsement.

Michelle Goldberg (5/10) — Yang at his meanest! The others discussed homelessness as a tragedy for the homeless. Yang spoke of it as a quality of life problem for everyone else.

Christina Greer (4/10) — Again conflated far too many complex issues, which further exposed his lack of policy understanding. Happy go lucky Yang has left the building. Curious if voters will see this new aggressive tone as a Jekyll and Hyde.

Celeste Katz Marston (6/10) — Forcefully staked out positions, particularly on the homelessness crisis, but still just unable to keep from cracking wise on even serious topics. If going after Adams was on his checklist, he ticked that box.

Luis A. Miranda Jr. (5/10) — Answering the obvious is silly: the problem with affordable housing is that we are not building affordable housing.

Credit...Alex Wong/Getty Images

Brent Staples (6/10) — He reined in his tendency toward jokiness. He spoke candidly and passionately at several points — particularly on the question of how to handle the growing problem of mental illness on the streets.

Eleanor Randolph (6/10) — Took on Adams but his most passionate moment was about how some Asians have been attacked by those who were mentally ill. The mentally ill have rights, he acknowledged. “But you know who else has rights? We do.”

Grace Rauh (8/10) — Spoke clearly and compellingly to New Yorkers — and families in particular — about the need for safe streets where mentally ill people aren’t a threat to public safety.

Howard Wolfson (8/10) — A good time to have his best debate performance. Knocked Adams back on his heels and demonstrated tremendous focus and message discipline by turning nearly every question into an answer about crime. Yang is now channeling his inner Howard Beale — mad as hell, declaring “we have the right to walk the street.”

Kathryn Wylde (6/10) — Andrew has learned a lot about the city in the past 6 months — as well as some humility that makes him a more compelling candidate. But this was not his night.

About the authors

Gerson Borrero is the host and political editor of “Estudio DC” at HITN and a former editor in chief of El Diario Nueva York.

Brent Staples is a member of the editorial board of The New York Times.

Michelle Goldberg is a Times Opinion columnist.

Christina Greer is a political scientist at Fordham University.

Celeste Katz Marston is a longtime political reporter, a host for WBAI radio in New York and a co-author of “Is This Any Way to Vote? Vulnerable Voting Machines and the Mysterious Industry Behind Them.”

Luis A. Miranda Jr. is a veteran New York political consultant and the chairman of Latino Victory.

Eleanor Randolph is a former editorial board member of The Times and the author of “The Many Lives of Michael Bloomberg.”

Grace Rauh is a former political reporter at NY1.

Howard Wolfson was a deputy mayor under Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, a senior adviser to Hillary Clinton’s Senate campaign and the communications director for her first presidential campaign.

Kathryn Wylde is the president and chief executive of the Partnership for New York City.

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