NEW YORK — Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez endorsed Maya Wiley for mayor Saturday — one of the most consequential individual nods in the race so far and one likely to further consolidate progressive support for Wiley as her rivals on the left face crises in their own campaigns.
“Maya Wiley grew up in the movement. She was raised in this,” Ocasio-Cortez said during a rally outside City Hall Saturday. “We have a field of candidates, and again, the stakes cannot be higher … I’m putting Maya number one.”
Ocasio-Cortez’s backing comes only a week before early voting starts and roughly two weeks before the June 22 primary. The nod comes as City Comptroller Scott Stringer faces a second woman accusing him of sexual misconduct and as Dianne Morales weathers a staff revolt inside her campaign.
Wiley has been battling for the progressive vote with Stringer and Morales, but struggled throughout the year to gain momentum. Stringer, a career politician, had a long cultivated base of support and Morales has run as an unapologetic leftist, vowing to slash the NYPD budget in half.
Wiley is the daughter of civil rights activist George Wiley, whom she and her brother saw drown when the candidate was only nine years old. She went on to become a lawyer in the civil division for the U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan and later worked for the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and the American Civil Liberties Union before becoming counsel to Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2014.
Wiley left the administration during the mayor’s first term and chaired the city’s police watchdog group, the Civilian Complaint Review Board. She also worked as a legal analyst for MSNBC before jumping into the mayor’s race.
Saturday’s endorsement followed a rally Ocasio-Cortez headlined for other city candidates, during which she decried the role of big money in city politics. Democratic frontrunners Eric Adams and Andrew Yang, who have run more conservative campaigns, both have super PACs boosting their bids, funded in part by wealthy donors including Jeff Yass, Daniel Loeb and Kenneth Griffin.
“There’s a ton of dark money in the New York City election, from the bottom to the top,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “In the mayoral election alone, super PACs have spent over $16 million.”
Wiley herself is expected to get a $1 million boost from an outside PAC funded in part by George Soros.
Ocasio-Cortez said she’s not worried about the state of progressive politics in New York, when asked about a split in support for candidates on the left.
“That discourse, and the robustness of that discourse and that debate, actually signifies the strength of the progressive movement in New York City,” she said. “The fact that we’ve had so many candidates with such strong progressive priorities and platforms is a good thing.”
But, she added, now the left has to unify with less than three weeks before the primary.
“What we should worry about is if we don’t come together,” she said. “It’s not even just a matter of which [candidate] — what we’re seeing a lot of is this rhetoric on safety in really doubling and tripling down on policing strategies that aren’t evidence-based to bring down crime.”
Adams, a former NYPD captain and the current Brooklyn borough president, has been running on a platform of curbing the city’s recent crime surge and wasted no time in criticizing the endorsement.
“Rep. Ocasio-Cortez and Maya Wiley want to slash the police department budget and shrink the police force at a time when Black and brown babies are being shot in our streets, hate crimes are terrorizing Asian and Jewish communities, and innocent New Yorkers are being stabbed and shot on their way to work,” he said in a statement. “They are putting slogans and politics in front of public safety and would endanger the lives of New Yorkers.”
Shortly after Ocasio-Cortez’s announcement, Rep. Jamaal Bowman, who had previously backed Stringer, announced he would be supporting Wiley as well.
“New York City’s next mayor needs to be a progressive fighter, ready to reimagine a New York that works for every single community,” he tweeted. “As an educator, husband, and father of three, it is my honor to endorse Maya Wiley to be our next Mayor.“
Jumaane Williams, who is expected to easily win another term as the city’s public advocate, was on hand at the rally Saturday and is another key endorser, but did not announce who he’s supporting for mayor.