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Eric Adams takes heat in final NYC Democratic mayoral debate before early voting starts

Recap: 5 NYC Democratic mayoral candidates debate
Recap: 5 NYC Democratic mayoral candidates de... 08:41

Five of the leading Democratic candidates in the New York City mayoral election met Thursday for the final debate before early voting begins. Eric Adams reversed course Thursday and decided to attend the debate after saying earlier that he would be attending a vigil for a 10-year-old killed in Queens.

But hanging over Adams' presence was a recent Politico report that raised questions about where he lives. The opening question of the debate was about Adams, who on Wednesday invited reporters to his apartment in Brooklyn to prove he lived there, although he has acknowledged spending some time with his partner in Fort Lee, New Jersey. 

"You know what people are asking about," Adams said. "I live in Brooklyn. I live in Bedford-Stuyvesant. I am happy to be there, it is a beautiful community, that's where I live. It's a humble place; it's a blue collar place but I am a blue-collar candidate. I live in Brooklyn." 

Andrew Yang, who has been one of the frontrunners with Adams and has been a frequent target of Adams for being in New Paltz at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, hit Adams particularly hard on his living situation. Yang said "unfortunately his tour of the basement raised more questions than it answered for many New Yorkers, especially me."

NYC mayoral candidates on Eric Adams report 05:49

"I was asked by Mr. Yang to produce my EZ Pass, I did," Adams said. "He started to say, 'produce what type of milk you have in your fridge, produce what type of vegan cheese you have.' This is silly. I live in Bed-Stuy, I'm a Brooklynite and I'm proud to be a Brooklynite."

With just five candidates, the Thursday debate was smaller than past debates. It included Adams, former New York City Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia, New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer, civil rights attorney Maya Wiley and Yang. 

The hour-long debate also heavily focused on crime, but also touched on how the candidates would work with Governor Andrew Cuomo, regulations for legal marijuana and whether to rename landmarks that bear the names of slave owners. 

Polling has shown crime is the top issue among likely primary voters. Compared to last year, instances of many major crimes are slightly down, but murders are up 12% and shootings are up 68%. When asked if police officers should continue to carry guns, almost all candidates said yes. Wiley said she is "not prepared" to answer that question in a debate. 

NYC mayoral candidates on police reform 05:38

Some of New York's top progressive leaders have coalesced around Wiley in recent days. Since Saturday she has received endorsements from Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Jamaal Bowman, as well as New York Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. 

Wiley has pledged to cut at least $1 billion from the New York Police Department's budget and reform how the department operates. She said in the debate that "safety is job one" for New York's mayor, but the size of the department is not the issue.

"Justin Wallace is not dead because we don't have enough police officers," Wiley said, referring to the 10-year-old boy who was shot and killed in Queens last weekend. "He's dead because we have never in this city done the very thing that communities like in the Far Rockaways or Washington Heights or Mott Haven have been asking us for, which is trauma-informed care."

Stringer was asked about a second allegation of sexual misconduct. The New York Times reported last Friday that a woman accused Stringer of groping her and unwanted sexual advances in 1992. The news came several weeks after similar allegations from another woman who worked unpaid on Stringer's 2001 public advocate campaign. 

Stringer said Thursday the allegations are "not true" and also said he was "misquoted, then requoted accurately" by The New York Times. Moderator Marcia Kramer pushed ahead, saying "But should you be held accountable for those actions?" 

"I want to be held accountable to anyone who wishes the press or otherwise to investigate what took place 30 years or 20 years ago," Stringer said. 

Stringer and Yang also sparred over Yang's experience and whether he would have the right approach to working with Cuomo. Cuomo has had a notoriously bad relationship with New York's current mayor, Bill de Blasio. Yang said could work with "anyone who's going to help us deliver for the people of New York" and asserted that the state's recovery depends on how New York City recovers. 

"Your approach is naïve," Stringer said. "Albany will go after you. Albany will collapse you. You don't understand that the forces around the state do not want us to get the funding that we deserve."

"The state needs the city, Scott. The city needs the state," Yang said. "It's easier to work with someone who, again, isn't trying to score political points (and) who just wants to get the job done. That's the kind of leadership that the city has been waiting for for quite some time."

Early voting is set to begin Saturday and lasts until June 20. Primary day is June 22. More than 180,000 absentee ballots have been mailed out for the primary, but it's not clear yet how many of those are for the Democratic primaries. There will be a final debate next Wednesday. 

The June primary will be the first citywide election in New York City using ranked-choice voting. The Board of Elections has said it may take until mid-July to determine which candidate won the election because of the rules for absentee ballot returns. 

Early voting is set to begin Saturday and lasts until June 20. Primary day is June 22. More than 180,000 absentee ballots have been mailed out for the primary, but it's not clear yet how many of those are for the Democratic primaries. There will be a final debate next Wednesday. 

The June primary will be the first citywide election in New York City using ranked-choice voting. The Board of Elections has said it may take until mid-July to determine which candidate won the election because of the rules for absentee ballot returns. 

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