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Eric Adams holds early lead in NYC Democratic mayoral primary. But it will take some time to figure out who won.

Early results in NYC mayoral primary
Early results in NYC mayoral primary 07:25

Eric Adams is leading. Andrew Yang has conceded. Kathryn Garcia vowed that the winner will come down the "twos and threes" in ranked-choice voting. Maya Wiley assured her supporters "every single vote will count."

Initial reported results in New York City's Democratic mayoral primary showed Adams with a formidable lead, but it is expected to take weeks before a winner is declared.

The votes released on Tuesday night were just the first-choice votes for ballots cast in-person during early voting and on primary day. There are no absentee ballots factored into the results yet because ballots can arrive through the mail until June 29, although they had to be postmarked by Tuesday. 

Adams led his rivals with about 31% of the votes tallied by 12:00 a.m. Wednesday, which accounted for about 92% of the city's election scanners. He was confident about his prospects at a rally with supporters on Tuesday night, but urged patience in waiting for the results.  

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Left to right: Kathryn Garcia, Eric Adams and Maya Wiley Stephanie Keith/Getty Images, AP Photo/Kevin Hagen, Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images

"We know that this is going to be layers. This is the first early voting count. We know that. We know there's going to be twos and threes and fours, we know that," Adams said. "But there's something else we know: that New York City said 'our first choice is Eric Adams.'"

Trailing him were Wiley with about 22% and Garcia with about 20%. While they were trailing at the end of Tuesday night, they made clear that there's a long road ahead before a winner is declared. 

"I don't know what New Yorkers have chosen tonight. Not any one of us does because the votes are still being counted. I will tell you what is true: every single vote will count," Wiley said. 

"This is going to be a ranked choice election," Garcia said in her speech. "This is going to be about not only the ones, but also about the twos and threes."

Yang, who was a front runner in the first few months of 2021, was trailing Wiley and Garcia by several percentage points and conceded on Tuesday night. 

"You all know I am a numbers guy. I'm someone who traffics in what's happening by the numbers and I'm not going to be the next mayor of New York City," Yang said. "I am conceding this race. Though we're not sure ultimately who the next mayor is going to be, but whoever that person is, I will be very happy to work with them to help improve the lives of the 8.3 million people who live in our great city."

NYC votes in heated mayoral primary 02:01

This is the first citywide primary where New York City used ranked-choice voting. The system allows voters to rank up to five candidates for mayor and other city offices. If no candidate receives a majority of first-place votes, the candidate who receives the fewest first-choice votes will be eliminated and his or her supporters' votes will be reallocated based on other selections. That process of elimination and redistribution will be repeated until two candidates remain, and the candidate left with the most votes wins. 

The Board of Elections is expected to release the first tabulation of ranked-choice votes for the early in-person and primary day votes on June 29. The first round of ranked-choice tabulation with absentee ballots is expected to take place on July 6. Any subsequent rounds of tabulation will take place in the following weeks. Voters have until July 9 to cure any deficiencies with absentee ballots, meaning the final results may not come until July 12. As of Monday, about 207,000 absentee ballots were sent in the Democratic primary and about 87,000 had been returned.

In many ranked-choice voting elections, the candidate leading after the first-choice votes goes on to win the election, but races can change significantly during ranked-choice tabulation. In 2018, San Francisco Mayor London Breed was winning by about 12 points, but went on to win by just one point in the final round of tabulation. That race isn't directly comparable to New York City because the field was less crowded and two candidates formed a solid alliance. 

New York voters saw a bit of an alliance between Garcia and Yang during the final weekend of early voting. Yang urged his supporters to rank Garcia second, but Garcia did not explicitly endorse Yang and direct her supporters to rank him second .It remains to be seen how that strategy plays out in the final tabulation. Adams and his allies sharply criticized the alliance, which led to an ugly final stretch of the campaign. 

The winner of the primary will take on Republican Curtis Sliwa in November. Whichever candidate takes the Democratic primary will be a considerable favorite to win the general election in heavily-Democratic New York City. 

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