By Florence Mafomemeh
Just 20 days to the June 22 primary election and 10 days to the start of early voting, the top eight Democratic mayoral candidates; Eric Adams, Shaun Donovan, Kathryn Garcia, Raymond McGuire, Dianne Morales, Scott Stringer, Maya Wiley and Andrew Yang took the stage at WABC-TV to tell New Yorkers why they want to be their mayor.
With the city engulfed in crime that has gone up 77 percent with 573 shootings and 652 victims in five months, it was no surprise that the moderator asked about defunding the police and how they would fight crime and cut police at the same time. There were deep divisions between centrist candidates like Adams, Yang, McGuire and Garcia, who want to invest in the police, and Progressives; Stringer, Wiley and Morales who want to cut NYPD’s budget.
Adams said fighting crime should be based on intervention and prevention while Garcia said she would buy back guns because potentially, that’s a life saved. Donovan said we must focus on safety and respect by focusing police on violent crime, not to be mental health experts for the mentally ill. Like Stringer, McGuire said stop-and-frisk is outdated and doesn’t work but defunding the police does not work either.
As for Keeping repeat offenders off the streets and stopping crime in the subways in the first 100 days, all candidates agreed that mental health is the prime cause of these random attacks on the streets and subways and put forth various ways in which they will tackle it.
In a debate that was very informative and heated, the candidates did not only address the hot-button issues but also went hard after each other. Fully aware that the election is right at the corner, this debate was pivotal as it could either make or break the candidates’ chances of becoming the mayor of the biggest city in the country. Every candidate came ready to swing and receive punches.
There were heated exchanges during the debate but the hottest was between Yang and Adams during the candidates’ question to each other, when they dug into each other’s weaknesses things became personal. Though Adams and Yang are frontrunners in the race, Adams was clearly the big target as Yang, Wiley, Stringer and Morales all directed their attacks and questions at him.
When Adams questioned Yang about gun violence in the city and his leaving NYC during the pandemic, it turned nasty as they threw some really hard balls at each other.
Adams told Yang he saw him hold a press conference after a shooting blocks from his home and he later on responded to the gun violence. Adams pointed out Yang’s company discriminated against people of color, and he left the city during COVID, and wondered how Yang, who did not vote in municipal elections at all, can be mayor. “How the hell do we have you become our mayor with a record like this? How do you govern a diverse city like this? I just can’t get it,” Adams said.
Yang said he moved to Georgia to help win the Senate and as official surrogate for Biden and Harris to help get Trump out. But then, he shot back hard at Adams. “And now Eric, you talk about public safety and security and shootings, again, three out of four shooting in Brooklyn are going unsolved right now. You are the Brooklyn Borough President,” Yang said.
Adams snapped back telling Yang he never knew the city’s problems until recently. “The problem was getting worse because you weren’t on the ground. You started discovering NYCHA when you were running for mayor. You just started discovering violence when you were running for mayor. You started discovering the homeless crisis when you were running for mayor. You can’t run from the city, Andrew, if you want to run the city,” Adams said.
“I was here on the ground for 35 uninterrupted years. You know you were not, so let’s be honest about that. So why should we trust you now? You may flee again during a difficult time. I never fled the city. I protected the city. I wore bullet proof vests for 22 years and protected the children and families of the city. You cannot say anyway near that,” Adams said
With that hard hit, Yang staggered back throwing at Adams anything he could find. “Eric, we all know that you’ve been investigated for corruption everywhere you’ve gone, city, state, even Barack Obama’s Dept of Justice investigated you. You’ve achieved the rare trifecta of investigations. Is that really what we want in the next mayor? Do you think you’re gonna enter City Hall and it’s gonna be different? We all know it’s gonna be exactly the same. There are so many people on the stage who don’t want you to be mayor,” Yang said.
Adams questioned whether Yang thinks the people on stage want him(Yang) to be mayor, and used the opportunity to clear things up. “Let’s be clear of something, Andrew. There was no investigation that came up that said Eric did something wrong and you should never get in the point, as a person of color that is wrongly accused often in this country should never get in the point to determine that because someone reviewed something, that they did something wrong. And you should apologize for making that comment,” Adams said. They were at it until McGuire and the moderators intervened.
These attacks may have somehow worked for Adams as they certainly gave him the opportunity to address issues that voters may not have been clear about, issues like; his acceptance of the outcome to a ranked choice voting election, Adams carrying a gun, major donations to Adams’ super PAC and a 2019 comment he’s alleged to have made that LGBTQ senior housing development didn’t belong in the community. He was able to address each issue.
Another divisive issue that stood out was charter schools and education with Morales and Stringer clearly against charter schools. “We need to focus on improving public schools, not investing in charter schools, and strengthen the quality of the schools. She said black and brown children do not see themselves reflected in the curriculum and we must transform how we teach them,” Morales said. Stringer said the fight is about charter schools and privatization emphasizing that he is endorsed by the teachers’ union. Adams who is for charter schools said he believes on scaling up excellence and if we don’t educate, we will risk incarceration.
All of the candidates support a universal childcare plan, undocumented workers in NYC, and discussed various ways in which they will get students back to in-school learning.
Other things that stood out during the lightening rounds were that only Yang wanted Cuomo or de Blasio’s endorsement. It was also striking that, with ranked-choice voting coming to the NYC elections for the first time, only Yang and Donovan indicated a second choice.
As the candidates clashed inside, their supporters were having a wild rally outside the studios making the argument for their candidates.