By Angela Bunay | September 26, 2023
State Sen. Jessica Ramos, Brooklyn Borough President Antonio Reynoso and city Comptroller Brad Lander are being floated as potential primary challengers to Adams.
Mayor Eric Adams insists the job is easy, but he’s come under sharp scrutiny for his handling of asylum-seekers, his close allies are embroiled in corruption investigations and he’s facing criticism from other public officials for being the “celebrity mayor” making too many public appearances. The criticism of Adams, especially from the left, has prompted speculation that he could face a progressive challenger in the 2025 Democratic mayoral primary.
The mayor often refers to himself as a progressive, though many Democrats would disagree. When he’s not calling himself a progressive, he’s accusing progressive politicians of working to derail his agenda and blaming progressive policies for the rising crime rate and other issues facing the city.
Progressives may want to unseat Adams, but he wouldn’t be easy to beat in a primary. During the first six months of his administration, his re-election campaign garnered over $850,000 dollars in contributions. He remains quite popular among Black and Latino voters throughout the city, and he can count on the support of large labor unions.
Who could challenge Adams in 2025? Here are some people potentially on the short list.
Most Likely to Primary Adams
A long-time player in the Queens political scene, state Sen. Jessica Ramos is highly speculated to challenge Adams in the Democratic primary in 2025. She has been particularly vocal about her criticisms with how Adams has handled the New York City migrant crisis. “I had a really tough time falling asleep, thinking about the idiocy that was spewed at a town hall,” Ramos told Politico, referring to Adams’ comment that the cost of migrants would “destroy New York City.”
According to The New York Times, during an informal dinner over the summer with members of progressive groups, many threw her name around as a potential Adams challenger to get behind. Ramos announced that she will run for re-election to the state Senate in 2024, but has not said whether she would run for mayor in 2025.
“We’ll see what the future holds,” Ramos told The Indypendent in August, leaving the door open for a possible mayoral campaign. “The truth is that being a lifelong, die hard New Yorker, loving my city the way I do, I’m ready to serve in any way that is required of me and whether that’s being front and center or playing a supportive role in ensuring that our city is administered appropriately, you can always count me in.”
Waiting in the Wings
Antonio Reynoso succeeded Eric Adams as Brooklyn borough president in 2021, and he could be looking to succeed him as mayor. But is he content to wait until 2029 or might he try to unseat Adams in 2025?
Reynoso has strong progressive credentials and an extensive public service career. He started out as a community organizer with NYC Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) and later worked as chief of staff for City Council Member Diana Reyna. Reynoso then succeeded her as the 34th district city councilman after beating a Brooklyn Democratic boss Vito Lopez, 50.22% to 36.84%, so Reynoso is not one to shy away from a tough challenge.
In August, Reynoso met with members of the Working Families Party and other progressive organizations looking for someone to take on Adams. But he told the New York Times that he’s not planning to challenge Adams. “I got elected to be the borough president of Brooklyn, it’s a big borough, and I have a big job,” he said.
There’s little love lost between city Comptroller Brad Lander and Adams. Lander, a staunch progressive, has criticized Adams’ handling of asylum-seekers, and Adams has mocked Lander publicly, even calling him “the loudest person in New York City” during a June press conference.
There’s a long history of city comptrollers running for mayor. Lander’s predecessor Scott Stringer ran for mayor (unsuccessfully) in 2021, Stringer’s predecessor John Liu ran for mayor (unsuccessfully) in 2013 and Liu’s predecessor Bill Thompson ran for mayor (unsuccessfully) in 2009.
Earlier this year, Lander launched his re-election campaign for city comptroller, and many expect Lander might wait until 2029 to run for mayor. That would probably be safer than challenging Adams in 2025. In a hypothetical primary poll released in May, Adams was predicted to beat Lander by 48 to 17% in a possible match-up.
Currently the New York City Public Advocate, Jumaane Williams is a long-time progressive voice in the city. He served on the City Council from 2009 to 2019 before becoming public advocate. In 2018, Williams ran for lieutenant governor against incumbent Kathy Hochul, losing in the primary by only seven points. He ran against Hochul again in the gubernatorial primary in 2022, this time losing by over 40 points.
Williams has been an outspoken critic of Adams. After Adams instituted a 30-day limit on shelter stays for single adult migrants, Williams wrote on X (formerly Twitter): “The mayor has been steadily trying to strip away the right to shelter, which only became an issue because the governor denied it and the president refused to provide decompression support.”
Williams has not commented publicly on whether he plans to run for mayor in 2025.
Definitely Not Running (Or So They Say…)
A close ally of U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Jamaal Bowman defeated 16-term incumbent Eliot Engel in 2020. Bowman’s strong ties to the progressive world would set him up well to launch a mayoral bid, and he’d be one of few potential candidates who could primary Adams without being accused of being anti-Black.
But Bowman is a Yonkers resident currently, so he would need to move back to New York City to run for mayor. And he’s made it clear that he has no plans to do that. When asked in August if he would run for mayor, Bowman told the Daily News: “No. Report this. No! I’m good! I love being in Congress, man. I like doing the work in Congress. I’m good.”
The former speaker of the City Council, Christine Quinn is now the chief executive officer of Win, a large nonprofit serving homeless women and children. That could make her a strong candidate to lead a city trying to solve the homelessness crisis.
Quinn has been a strong advocate for migrants and the homeless in the city, urging the city council to pass legislation ending the rule that people must be in shelters for 90 days before gaining eligibility for housing vouchers allowing them to leave. When the legislation passed the City Council, Adams promptly vetoed the bill, citing concerns over the cost of expansion, but the Council overrode the veto two months later.
When asked if she would run against Adams, Quinn told PIX11, “I’m not running against Mayor Adams, but will I ever run for mayor or something else? You know, a girl should never say never in the city of New York.”
Ready for a Rematch?
She narrowly lost to Adams in 2021, but Kathryn Garcia could be poised to challenge Adams in 2025, especially with all the controversy surrounding the current mayor. Following her loss in the mayoral primary, Garcia began working as Gov. Kathy Hochul’s director of state operations. She now oversees 96 agencies, including the Olympic Regional Authority and the MTA.
Could Garcia make another run for mayor? Many believe that she would have a better shot the second time around. Garcia hasn’t commented on whether she plans to take on Adams once again, though she’s said that she is happy with her role at the state level. “I’m really excited to be doing what I’m doing,” Garcia told The City. “I get to do a lot of really fun things that are also incredibly impactful – not everyone gets to do that.”
A front runner in 2021, Maya Wiley came in third just behind Garcia and Adams. Wiley previously worked as legal counsel for de Blasio and then gained some public recognition as an on-air legal analyst for MSNBC.
During 2021, Wiley was able to secure a number of major endorsements: the Working Families Party, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, U.S. Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Julian Castro and 1199 SEIU, the largest labor union in the city and largest healthcare union nationally. Her candidacy also appealed to many Black women, and she was a strong contender for the progressive vote after Scott Stringer was sidelined and Dianne Morales’ campaign imploded.
Since falling short in the mayoral primary, though, she’s largely stayed away from politics. In 2022, Wiley was named the president of The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. Could she make a return to the mayoral competition? Maybe, though she hasn’t spoken publicly about any plans to challenge Adams in 2025.