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NEW YORK: New York City residents cast ballots in a Democratic primary Tuesday that will all but certainly select the next mayor tasked with shaping the post-pandemic future of America's largest metropolis.

Ex-policeman Eric Adams is the frontrunner in a diverse group of 13 candidates vying for the job often called "the second-most difficult" in the United States after that of president.

Voters headed to polls with Covid-19 still casting a long shadow over the Big Apple, the epicenter of America's early outbreak, and which has lost 33,000 people to the virus. But the city is now coming back to life - virtually all coronavirus restrictions have been lifted, and 66 percent of adults have received at least one vaccine dose.

A crowded field of progressives and moderates face off in a race made all the more uncertain by a new ranked-choice system of voting that has clouded all predictions. The winner of the vote is unlikely to be known for several weeks.

Since New York is a Democratic stronghold, though, they are virtually guaranteed to win November's mayoral election against whomever Republicans choose as their candidate. More than 191,000 people voted during the nine-day early voting period that ended Sunday. Tens of thousands of absentee ballots will also need to be counted.

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