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In their first in-person debate, eight Democratic candidates for New York City mayor faced off Wednesday night, criticizing each other while discussing topics ranging from crime to the city’s economic recovery, with primaries just weeks away.
The debate saw more attacks among candidates than in the first forum, a sign that candidates are trying to gain momentum, as well as break into the armor of 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 each other.
“If you want to run the city, you can’t run away from the city,” Adams said, referring to Yang’s move from the city during the pandemic.
“We all know you’ve been investigated for corruption wherever you go,” Yang directed at Adams. “You have achieved the rare trifecta of corruption investigations.”
In a free-flowing round, candidates were allowed to ask a question to any opposing candidate. Eric Adams got almost all of them, another sign that Adams is seen as the favorite in this race.
Yang watched as opposing candidates question him over his lack of experience, even as City Controller Scott Stringer called him a Republican. Civil rights lawyer Maya Wiley criticized Yang for her role in Venture for America, a non-profit organization that Yang said would bring thousands of jobs, but actually only brought 150.
Former sanitation commissioner Catherine García, who has voted in the top three of the candidates, had a strong showing. He has seen very few attacks and has consistently used his record to present his case to potential voters. Garcia has benefited from major approvals.
Willie, in particular, seemed intent on making himself a main character on stage, sensing an opening among progressive candidates. Stringer, who was the leading Progressive candidate, is facing allegations of sexual harassment.
Nonprofit founder Diane Morales, the other progressive candidate, has accused her campaign of having a toxic work environment with allegations of race-based abuse by employees.
Stringer responded to the allegations tonight, saying there were “inconsistencies.” Morales responded by pointing out how quickly he reacted to the issue as a sign of his leadership.
The mayoral candidate discussed various issues. Crime and public safety were key. Adams has been attacked in the past by several candidates for showing support for Stop and Frisk, but both he and Yang linked the crime issue to the city’s economic recovery. Morales promised to cut $3 billion from the police budget.
Former US Housing and Urban Development Secretary Sean Donovan, former Citicorp executive Ray McGuire and Wiley all pledged to use government spending to bring in more jobs.
All eight candidates were told to raise their hands if they wanted support from Mayor Bill de Blasio or Governor Cuomo. Yang was the only person who raised a hand for either of them.
The primaries are scheduled for June 22. The next debate is due for the “leading candidates” on June 16, meaning Wednesday’s performance could be the last chance for voters to push for the underperforming candidates.
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