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Influential NYC teachers union endorses Scott Stringer for mayor

Originally published in the New York Daily News

The United Federation of Teachers announced Monday it is endorsing city Comptroller Scott Stringer for mayor.

The kudos mark a major boost for Stringer, who had lost out on other big union endorsements to rival Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.

While Stringer had been struggling in the polls, UFT President Michael Mulgrew noted the candidate has come from behind in previous elections including the 2013 contest against former Gov. Eliot Spitzer for comptroller.

“[Stringer] was down by double digits and people said once again, ‘Oh, he can’t win,” Mulgrew said at a press conference broadcast via Zoom. “And he just said, ‘You give me the support and I will be there.’”

Stringer has had close ties with UFT for years. On the campaign trail, he promised to put two teachers in every elementary classroom and vowed to end the controversial SHSAT test to get into the city’s eight specialized high schools.

Also in the running for UFT’s coveted endorsement were Adams, ex-top de Blasio aide Maya Wiley and businessman Andrew Yang, who’s been leading in polls about the candidates. While both Stringer and Wiley have been positioning themselves as teacher-friendly progressives, Yang was considered a long-shot for the endorsement after he blamed the UFT for the chaotic start of the school year, then walked back his remarks.

Mulgrew on Monday echoed Stringer’s main talking point, that he has the experience to steer the city through multiple crises.

“As a school system and as a city, we will be facing unprecedented challenges and we are going to need someone who knows how to get the job done, someone who knows what a school system is going to need,” the union boss said.

Monday’s endorsement vote did not come without drama within UFT’s ranks, which include about 200,000 members. A faction called the Movement of Rank and File Educators decried the process leading up to the endorsement as lacking sufficient member input.

Nine in 10 members of the UFT’s delegate assembly voted to endorse Stringer, according to Mulgrew. The ballot took place more than the week after the union’s final candidates’ forum.

“Do I accept? Thought you’d never ask,” Stringer jokingly told Mulgrew as he took to the podium.

He went on to play down recent polls — dismissively saying, “You could talk about this poll and that poll” — and appeared to take a shot at Yang, who has a massive social media following.

“We are not going to have a government by Twitter,” Stringer said. “We are going to have a government that is ready on day one.”

At a final candidates’ forum hosted by the UFT last earlier this month, Stringer was one of just two candidates who said they’d read the union’s five-point plan on recovering from the pandemic.

“Did my homework, sir,” Stringer told Mulgrew when quizzed on the matter.

In a new poll conducted NY1 and Ipsos, Yang had support from 22% of likely Democratic voters; Adams, 13%; and Stringer, 11%. That marked an improvement over previous polls for the comptroller.

Adams has been racking up some of the biggest endorsements, including support from the District Council 37 union of municipal workers, the 32BJ SEIU service employees union and the Hotel Trades Council. The 1199 SEIU union of health care workers backed Wiley.

Mayor de Blasio leaves office at the end of the year due to term limits. The Democratic primary is scheduled for June 22.