“I want to be clear that my decision to end this campaign is not the end of my public life,” Mr. Johnson said in his statement. “I will continue serving as speaker of the City Council and working to improve the lives of New Yorkers. I love this city with all my heart and I believe by working together, we will come back stronger than ever.”
Since becoming Council speaker, Mr. Johnson quickly won a following by casting himself as the antithesis to the somewhat aloof Mayor de Blasio. Mr. Johnson performed back flips at parades, wrote a syrupy ode to the city on Twitter and publicly celebrated his sobriety and new relationship with his boyfriend.
A year ago, when Mr. de Blasio was 1,000 miles away in Iowa pursuing a long-shot bid for the Democratic nomination for president, the power went out over a large swath of Manhattan’s West Side. Mr. Johnson filled the breach, rushing back to the city from Long Island to provide frequent updates.
Earlier this year, Mr. Johnson, who is white, was considered to be among three leading candidates to replace Mr. de Blasio. The others were Eric Adams, the borough president of Brooklyn who is Black, and the city comptroller, Scott M. Stringer, who is white.
But as the coronavirus killed 24,000 people in New York City and the civil unrest hit the streets, Mr. Johnson’s challenge of getting 51 Council members to act together became more draining, and the idea of being mayor held less appeal, say those close to Mr. Johnson.
A racial dynamic may also influence the race.
The recent congressional primary victories in the New York City area of three candidates of color — all three Black and Latino, and two of them gay — may signal that Democratic voters might be more receptive to someone other than a white man.
Along with Mr. Adams, two other formidable Black candidates are said to be weighing whether to enter the race for mayor: Maya Wiley, a civil rights lawyer who worked as a commentator for MSNBC and as a legal counsel for Mr. de Blasio, and Raymond J. McGuire, the global head of corporate and investment banking at Citi. Another candidate of color, Dianne Morales, a former nonprofit executive and Afro-Latina woman, has raised almost $158,000, mostly from small-dollar donations.