A race this crowded is bound to feature some colorful characters and get messy at times.
But a debate Wednesday co-organized by the Gay Men's Health Crisis got off to a cringe-inducing start when Theo Chino, a bitcoin entrepreneur, seemed to betray ignorance on the issue of HIV and AIDS.
"I don't have it. I'm not gay, so I don't live with it,” Chino said.
Chino was soon corrected: "HIV is not something that just affects the LGBT community,” said attorney and former White House staffer Dawn Smalls, “and I think that's important to say."
Then came Daniel Christmann's theatrics.
"This guy, head of housing and buildings,” gestures toward Brooklyn City Councilman Jumaane Williams. Then he pointed toward former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito. “This woman re-zoned Harlem and the Bronx. Everyone's mad at her."
Altogether 23 candidates filed signatures to get on the ballot for next month's special election, but Christmann wasn't one of them. The race is so chaotic, a man who's not even in the running has managed to crash forums like this one.
Christmann says while he couldn't gather the necessary signatures, he plans to run in the general election this fall.
“I'm running in November,” he said.
The debate, hosted by the New School and moderated by NY1's Grace Rauh, had plenty of substance.
"The number one thing we should focus on is continue to break down the stigma of HIV and AIDS,” said Brooklyn City Councilman Rafael Espinal Jr.
To stand out from the field, some candidates tended to go on the attack.
"We've got a City Council and a mayor who've been bought off [by] these developers,” said organizer and activist Nomiki Konst.
"Rezone mainly neighborhoods of color with the support and buy-in of members of the City Council, many of which are my opponents,” said history professor David Eisenbach.
The current and former elected officials in the race, meanwhile, tend to highlight their records.
"I want to facilitate conversations,” Mark-Viverito said. “That is what we did when I was in the Council."
Williams said: "I have been on the ground, on the streets, and in the halls of power, getting bills passed."
The field will likely thin out a bit next Tuesday, when the Board of Elections meets to rule on challenges to some candidates' signatures and finalize the ballot. The special election is set for February 26th.