Sexual Harassment Allegations Roil N.Y.C. Mayor’s Race: 5 Takeaways

For much of the New York City mayor’s race, Andrew Yang has been a dominating presence, leading in limited early polling and siphoning attention from his rivals.

That largely remained true last week, but an unexpected story line — the sexual assault allegations lodged against Scott M. Stringer, the city comptroller — gave the race another focal point.

A former campaign worker, Jean Kim, said Mr. Stringer sexually abused her during his 2001 campaign for public advocate. At least four mayoral candidates have called on Mr. Stringer to drop out of the race.

On Friday, Mr. Stringer lost several major endorsements from left-leaning politicians and political organizations, which has thrown his campaign into turmoil, and altered the dynamics of the contest — one of the city’s most consequential mayoral elections in a generation. More leaders withdrew their support over the weekend, including Representative Adriano Espaillat, a key Latino ally.

Mr. Stringer has vociferously denied Ms. Kim’s accusations, saying that they once had a consensual relationship over the course of a few months. He vowed to “fight for the truth because these allegations are false.” Part of that effort seems to be rooted in discrediting Ms. Kim, and portraying her as politically motivated.

Soon after Ms. Kim went public with her accusation, Mr. Stringer said that his relationship with Ms. Kim was friendly until 2013, when she wanted a job on his campaign for comptroller and did not get one. On Friday, his campaign accused her of “working for Mr. Yang.”

Ms. Kim pushed back strongly.

“I do not work and have never worked for the Andrew Yang campaign,” Ms. Kim said in a statement. “I’ve never met him, and I have not decided who my choice is for mayor of New York City.”

The Stringer campaign said Ms. Kim had filed petitions to help Mr. Yang get on the ballot. Ms. Kim said she was circulating the petitions for her friend, Esther Yang, who is running as a district leader in Manhattan and is aligned with Mr. Yang.

Ms. Kim, a lobbyist who has worked in politics for years, said she believed it might be time for the city to elect its first female mayor. She said that she came forward because of the “gnawing feeling in my gut every time I saw him touting his support for women” and was not surprised by Mr. Stringer’s efforts to discredit her.

“It is exactly what I expected him to do,” she said. “Lie, attack and retaliate.”

Maya Wiley, a former counsel to Mayor Bill de Blasio and one of three female mayoral candidates calling on Mr. Stringer to drop out, said on Twitter that Mr. Stringer had started a “smear campaign” against Ms. Kim and called it “disgusting.”

The sexual assault allegations opened another line of criticism against Mr. Stringer, as several local leaders said that his aggressive response toward Ms. Kim’s claims was part of a broader pattern.

Helen Rosenthal, a city councilwoman on the Upper West Side, said she had been “on the receiving end of his crude and vengeful actions.”

Ms. Rosenthal, who is supporting Ms. Wiley in the mayor’s race, said that when she and Mr. Stringer were on opposing political sides, he threatened not to work with groups that supported Ms. Rosenthal.

At the same time, a group of women including Betsy Gotbaum, the city’s former public advocate, and Ruth Messinger, a former Manhattan borough president who unsuccessfully ran for mayor in 1997, urged caution when considering the allegations.

Their statement, released through the Stringer campaign, said: “Believing women means accepting the allegation and investigating it thoroughly and objectively.”

Mr. Yang, the former presidential hopeful, has done well in the race despite not landing major endorsements; he had hoped to change that by getting the backing of the powerful union that represents subway and bus workers.

Mr. Yang had met in March with John Samuelsen, a top leader of the Transport Workers Union of America, who had expressed support for Mr. Yang’s views on automation.

“There is a technological revolution coming across all transport sectors, with a huge potential negative impact on public transit workers and service delivery,” Mr. Samuelsen said at the time. “Andrew Yang speaks powerfully in defense of workers, and understands that people come before profits.”

But the union ultimately backed Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president, whom officials have known for much longer. Mr. Adams has been a voice for subway riders and workers as the system fell into crisis in recent years.

“He’s stood with us in many battles and has always been there for us,” said Tony Utano, the president of the local transit union. “He’s earned this endorsement and richly deserves it.”

Mr. Yang did win the support last week of leading Hasidic sects in the Borough Park neighborhood in Brooklyn. Mr. Yang has been courting Orthodox Jewish voters and has defended the yeshiva education system, which has faced criticism over not providing a basic secular education.

After Mr. Stringer was accused of sexual assault by Ms. Kim, the three top-tier female candidates for mayor quickly called for Mr. Stringer to either withdraw from the mayor’s race, resign as city comptroller or both.

They were joined by Shaun Donovan, the former federal housing secretary, but not by the three other leading male candidates.

Mr. Yang, Mr. Adams and Raymond J. McGuire, a former Wall Street executive, all said that they believed Ms. Kim but stopped short of calling for Mr. Stringer to withdraw from political life.

Mr. Donovan said that his views lined up with Ms. Wiley, who believes that a man cannot tell a woman if a relationship is consensual, as Mr. Stringer has claimed. But because Mr. Stringer was Ms. Kim’s boss, the relationship could never have been consensual, Mr. Donovan said.

“One of the fundamental issues in the #MeToo movement is the use of power by men to take advantage of women, sexually and otherwise,” Mr. Donovan said. “Men have to speak out against that if it will change. It shouldn’t be just women.”

Sasha Ahuja, Mr. Yang’s co-campaign manager, said he believed Ms. Kim and that there should be “a thorough investigation as soon as possible.” Mr. Adams’s campaign pointed to his remarks earlier in the week when he said that Mr. Stringer should do some “soul searching and make the appropriate decisions on how to move forward.”

Basil Smikle, Mr. McGuire’s campaign manager, called Mr. Donovan’s comments a sign of privilege and said rushing to judgment before due process is not a good idea.

“For a guy whose entire campaign consists of him talking about his Black friends from work, Shaun Donovan is showing himself to be totally ignorant of what it’s like to be Black in America,” said Mr. Smikle, who is Black.

Mr. McGuire, who has support from numerous Wall Street types, has done so well in fund-raising that the New York City Campaign Finance Board was forced to raise the spending cap for all mayoral candidates participating in the city’s public financing system.

Under the system, small dollar donations from New Yorkers are matched at a rate of up to $8 for every $1 contributed.

Mr. McGuire is not participating in the matching program, which had allowed candidates to spend up to $7.3 million in the primary.

Under campaign finance rules, if a candidate, like Mr. McGuire, who is not participating in public financing, raises or spends more than half of the $7.3 million cap, the spending cap for participating clients is raised by half.

Mr. McGuire, who entered the race in October, has now raised $7.4 million — triggering an automatic raise in the spending cap to $10.9 million.

With super PACs supporting individual candidates proliferating for the first time in the race for mayor, the increased spending cap is likely to help Mr. Adams, Mr. Stringer and Mr. Yang.

Mr. Adams has raised a total of $8.9 million and has $7.9 million on hand, according to the most recent campaign finance filings. Mr. Stringer had raised $8.7 million and has $7.4 million on hand. Mr. Yang has raised $6 million and has $5 million on hand.

Super PACs supporting Mr. McGuire and Mr. Donovan’s campaigns have each raised more than $4 million. Mr. Donovan’s father contributed $4 million to the super PAC supporting his son. And there are at least two PACs expected to support Mr. Yang’s campaign.

Mayoral candidates participating in the matching program can receive a maximum of $6.5 million in public money for the primary.

Evan Thies, a spokesman for Mr. Adams, said that “having more to spend is helpful” and that Mr. Adams will be able to “meet the new limit.”



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