Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez endorsed civil rights lawyer Maya Wiley for New York City mayor on Saturday, shaking up the crowded race with just a week to go before the first votes will be cast.
The firebrand lawmaker announced the surprise pick with only a few minutes notice, saying Wiley is the most progressive choice out of the eight major Democratic candidates running to replace Mayor Bill de Blasio.
“My No. 1 is Maya Wiley,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “We will vote for Maya No. 1.”
Wiley, who is vying for the progressive vote in the June 22 primary race, spoke side by side with Ocasio-Cortez at a City Hall press conference on a steamy late spring afternoon.
“She will be a progressive in Gracie Mansion,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “We can’t let New York become a playground for the wealthy where working people cannot afford to live.”
AOC paid tribute to Wiley’s career as an attorney who she says has fought for the right causes for years.
“We have an option of a candidate who can center people, racial justice, economic justice, and climate justice,” the second-term congresswoman said. “(She) didn’t just come up to run for mayor, but has experience, and has a lifetime of dedication to this.”
The endorsement is a major boost for Wiley, who is hoping to build late momentum in the unpredictable campaign.
Wiley praised Ocasio-Cortez as an outspoken leader and vowed to be that kind of force in City Hall.
“It’s time we have this kind of courage, leading us through an historic crisis that has created a crossroads,” Wiley said. “We need the courage to bring every New Yorker back with us.”
“I am the progressive choice and we are going to get it done,” she added.
Early voting begins next Saturday, June 12, and primary day itself is just over two weeks away.
Still, many New Yorkers tell pollsters they haven’t made up their minds yet. After a relatively sleepy start, the race heated up this past week with a raucous debate.
Ocasio-Cortez had earlier suggested she might not take sides in the crowded race for Gracie Mansion.
Ocasio-Cortez made her pick after a City Hall press conference in which she endorsed dozens of city council candidates.
She also appeared with Brooklyn City Councilmember Brad Lander, a candidate for comptroller, and Jumaane Williams, who is vying to be the next public advocate.
The Democratic mayoral nominee will be decided using ranked choice voting, adding to the unpredictability of the race.
Ocasio-Cortez said she may reveal who her lower choices in the mayoral ballot, which allows voters to pick their top five candidates.
Wiley has trailed frontrunners Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, former sanitation commissioner Kathryn Garcia, and ex-presidential candidate Andrew Yang.
The former head of the group that handles complaints about police misconduct is seeking to break out of the pack of three avowed progressives. Comptroller Scott Stringer has become mired in a harassment scandal while Dianne Morales is seeking to quell chaos in her own campaign.