Why an Independent Can Win The New York Mayoral Race

Michelle V. Agins / The New York Times Michelle V. Agins / The New York Times[/caption]

On primary day in New York City, voters who consider themselves independent were excluded from the primary. The big apple has a closed primary, which means that only voters who are registered with either the Republican or Democratic Party are eligible to participate.

Without the need for a get out the vote effort, the New York City Independence Party decided to participate in the primaries in a different way: they conducted a poll to gauge the interest of registered voters in independent candidates.

This initiative might seem strange since those who participate in their party’s primary are usually some of the more dedicated voters to the party line. However, after helping Mayor Michael Bloomberg run as an independent in past elections, and seeing the appeal of the non-affiliated label, they wanted to get an honest gauge of public opinion on the possibility that New Yorkers would vote for a third party candidate.

They asked two questions to voters leaving the polls. First, voters were asked what they would do in the November election if their candidate did not win the primary. And second, they were asked if voters would consider voting for Adolfo Carrion, the former Bronx borough president, who is also the endorsed representative of the New York City Independence Party.

What the survey found was pretty astounding. In an exit survey of  2,039 primary day voters in all five boroughs, 30.8 percent of respondents said if their candidate did not win their party’s nomination, they wanted to see who all the candidates were in the November election before deciding and would consider all options—including voting for an independent.

When asked if they would consider voting for Carrion, an established presence in the New York City political scene, 39.9 percent of respondents said “yes.” In the Bronx, where Carrion is a former borough president, this number rose to 48.5 percent.

Cathy Stewart, the citywide coordinator for the New York City Independence Party, said that she was “happy to see the level of openness among primary voters.”

She explained that while the media has been treating Bill de Blasio’s win in the democratic primary “as a coronation,” it was important to remember that Carrion is a serious candidate who many voters want to learn more about. As the survey shows, many voters are also open to voting for him as well.

The New York City Independence Party intends to make sure his voice is heard throughout the rest of the campaign season, including in the critical mayoral debates.

While Carrion spent 20 years inside the Democratic Party, which included a stint in the Obama administration, his run as an independent centers on his desire to rid himself of the stranglehold of the two-party system. He felt partisanship was standing in the way of innovation and real solutions.

And, according to this new survey, it seems voters are willing to hear him out.