Sparks fly at first in-person televised debate in Democratic primary for NYC mayor

FILE PHOTO: Andrew Yang, Democratic candidate for mayor of New York City, speaks during a rally against Asian hate crimes following the May 31, 2021 unprovoked attack on a 55 year old Asian woman, in Manhattan's Chinatown district of New York City, U.S., June 2, 2021. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton

In their first in-person debate, the eight Democratic candidates for New York City mayor faced off Wednesday night, criticizing one another while discussing a plethora of topics ranging from crime to the city’s economic recovery with the primaries just a few short weeks away. 

This debate saw more attacks launched between candidates than in the first forum, a telling sign that the candidates are trying to garner momentum while simultaneously trying to put a dent in the armor of the leading candidates. 

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and entrepreneur Andrew Yang were two of the top three candidates in the latest polls and exchanged jabs with one another. 

“You can’t run from the city if you want to run the city,” said Adams said referencing Yang’s departure from the city during the pandemic. 

“We all know you’ve been investigated for corruption everywhere you’ve gone,” said Yang directed towards Adams. “You’ve achieved the rare trifecta of corruption investigations.” 

In a free-flowing round, the candidates were allowed to ask any opposing candidate a question. Eric Adams received nearly all of them, another sign that Adams is viewed as a favorite in this race. 

Yang saw opposing candidates question him on his lack of experience was even called a Republican by City Comptroller Scott Stringer. Civil rights attorney Maya Wiley criticized Yang for his role at Venture for America, a nonprofit organization that Yang said would bring about thousands of jobs, but in actuality only brought about 150. 

Former Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia, who has polled in the top three amongst the candidates, had a strong performance. She saw very few attacks and consistently used her record to make her case to prospective voters. Garcia has benefited from key endorsements. 

Wiley, in particular, seemed intent on making herself a main character on the stage sensing an opening amongst the progressive candidates. Stringer, who had been the leading progressive candidate, has struggled with a sexual assault allegation.

Nonprofit founder Dianne Morales, the other progressive candidate, has had her campaign accused of being a toxic work environment with accusations of race-based mistreatment by staffers.

Stringer responded to the allegations tonight by saying there were “inconsistencies.” Morales responded by pointing to how quickly she responded to the issue as a sign of her leadership. 

The mayoral hopefuls discussed a variety of issues. Crime and public safety were major ones. Adams was attacked by multiple candidates for showing support in the past for stop and frisk but both he and Yang tied the issue of crime to the city’s economic recovery. Morales promised to cut $3 billion from the police budget. 

Former U.S. Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, ex-Citicorp executive Ray McGuire, and Wiley all promised to use government spending to bring in more jobs. 

All eight candidates were asked to raise their hand if they would want an endorsement from Mayor Bill de Blasio or Governor Cuomo. Yang was the only one to raise his hand for either. 

The primaries are set for June 22. The next debate is set to take place on June 16 for “leading candidates,” meaning that Wednesday’s showdown may have been the last chance for lesser-performing candidates to make a push to voters.

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