In the weeks since a former campaign volunteer accused Scott M. Stringer of sexual misconduct, many of the Democratic mayoral candidate’s most crucial supporters, including the Working Families Party and a phalanx of progressive politicians, have abandoned his campaign.
But powerful teachers’ unions are not only sticking with Mr. Stringer, the city comptroller — they are, starting Tuesday, offering a much-needed boost to his embattled campaign in the form of a multimillion-dollar advertising blitz.
The American Federation of Teachers, the country’s second-largest teachers’ union, and the United Federation of Teachers, its large and influential New York City chapter, are the primary backers of the $4 million television and digital advertising effort. The ads and mailers will be paid for by NY 4 Kids, a super PAC created to “keep the issues affecting our schools, kids and teachers front and center in this election,” according to a release from the group.
The A.F.T. has contributed $1 million so far, and the PAC has commitments for the remaining $3 million. The effort by the PAC, which is primarily funded by the unions, will more than triple the Stringer campaign’s own spending on ads, which has totaled about $1.3 million so far.
The unions make up an essential part of the coalition that is still standing with Mr. Stringer before the Democratic primary in June. But their continued support for the candidate amounts to a very risky political bet for the U.F.T. in particular, which has failed to back a winning candidate for mayor since 1989.
The union has significant power over key education decisions, but its influence in the city’s electoral politics could be weakened considerably if it once again bets on the wrong candidate.
That has not deterred Randi Weingarten, the president of the A.F.T. and one of the most powerful union leaders in the country, from defending Mr. Stringer. On Sunday, she stood with the candidate and Representative Jerrold Nadler on Mr. Stringer’s home turf, the Upper West Side, to praise his record as a longtime local politician.
“I’m very proud of that endorsement because of what Scott has done and what he will do,” said Ms. Weingarten, the former president of the U.F.T. “I think he’ll be a great mayor.”
“Am I troubled by the allegations? Of course,” she said, adding, “I’m also a unionist who has dealt with false allegations.”
Tyrone Stevens, a spokesman for Mr. Stringer, said the campaign was “thrilled to have the ongoing support of champions for public education, because they know the next mayor needs to be ready on day one to invest in our children and bring our schools back stronger than ever.”
Some parents and mayoral candidates have accused the union of slowing the pace of school reopenings in New York over the last year. But with the majority of families still choosing to learn remotely, there is no evidence of a significant public backlash against the union.
Other major unions have endorsed Mr. Stringer’s rivals, with several lining up behind Eric Adams, the Brooklyn borough president. But the U.F.T. backed Mr. Stringer, a longtime ally of the union, last month. When the U.F.T. president, Michael Mulgrew, was asked whether his 200,000-member union would support whoever the Democratic nominee was, he replied that Mr. Stringer would in fact be the nominee.
That was a cheekily confident projection even then, when limited public polling showed Mr. Stringer regularly polling third or fourth in the race. But just a week after the U.F.T. endorsement, Jean Kim, a political lobbyist who worked on a 2001 campaign for Mr. Stringer, said the candidate groped her on several occasions during that race. Mr. Stringer has vehemently denied the allegations, and has said that he and Ms. Kim had a brief, consensual relationship.
Mr. Stringer has been competing for the left flank of the city’s electorate against Maya Wiley, a former counsel to Mayor Bill de Blasio, and Dianne Morales, a former nonprofit leader, both of whom have picked up endorsements and energy from progressive groups in the wake of Ms. Kim’s allegations.
In a recent interview with Bloomberg News, Mr. Mulgrew said his union was still backing Mr. Stringer in part because the accusations have not been proven.
“One reason why unions got formed is that people get treated unfairly,” Mr. Mulgrew said. “There are lots of allegations all the time in the work we do.”
Jeffery C. Mays contributed reporting.