'Anyone's race': The debate that could decide New York’s next mayor

Democratic mayoral candidate Andrew Yang speaks to voters during a campaign rally in New York City. | Alex Wong / Getty Images

NEW YORK – The eight leading New York City mayoral candidates will take the stage in the final primaries debate on Wednesday night – and with less than a week to go until election day, none can claim to be the undisputed frontrunner.

But some hope to be there by the end of the night.

In the personal debate, sponsored by POLITICO, WNBC and Telemundo 47, eight Democrats will compete for the fourth and final time before the June 22nd primary. Kathryn Garcia and Maya Wiley have risen sharply in the last few polls. Andrew Yang lost his front-runner status weeks ago, although enthusiasm for his candidacy remains high.

Eric Adams, who took a national exam last week for his confusing living conditions, remains the man to beat – and the likely target of heavy fires on Wednesday night.

“I find it fascinating that people say that Eric will do a lot of body photos,” he told reporters on Tuesday, referring to himself in the third person. “Let’s get one thing straight: I was beaten by the police.” Adams’ tough background and history as a police officer were central themes throughout his campaign.

“I was shot at as a police officer. I was almost fired by the police, ”he said. “I was written, attacked and criticized about myself. When I’m on this stage, it’s the easiest thing I’ve ever done in my life. People discuss? I sit there and I am so peaceful. ”

But Adams won’t be alone when it comes to weathering or delivering attacks. With early voting already underway and a new leaderboard selection system debuting in New York for the first time, the race remains very fluid and could easily get upset before polling stations close.

“Nobody knows if this is a race for two, three or even four people – still,” said Eric Phillips, a political advisor and former press secretary to Mayor Bill de Blasio who is not affiliated with any campaign. “Candidates will not know who to train their collective fire on.”

The 7pm debate, also co-sponsored by the Citizens Budget Commission and the New York Urban League, will air the first hour on NBC 4 New York – the entire two-hour debate will be broadcast live on the POLITICO website as well as on the WNBC website .

A Marist poll published Monday – commissioned by POLITICO, WNBC and Telemundo 47 – showed that Adams defeated Garcia in 12 rounds of a ranked model in which voters choose their top five candidates in order of preference on their ballot papers.

In the first election, Brooklyn borough president Adams led the field with 24 percent of the likely primary voters. He was followed by Garcia, the former city medical officer at 17, Wiley, a lawyer and former attorney for Mayor Bill de Blasio, had 15 percent, and Yang, the former presidential candidate, had 13 percent in the first ballot.

In another poll published this week, Garcia won in a ranked model and a third had Wiley as the winner of the first round of voting.

Wiley has cemented support from the party’s organized left wing over the past two weeks, after gaining support from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) And other progressive favorites, while Garcia rose from underdog status after gaining endorsement from the New York Times and the New York Daily News. Yang was considered the front runner for months but has fallen behind in recent polls.

With early ballots being cast, candidates need to focus on the specific issues they want to address in order to sway the remaining undecided voters, said Jonathan Greenspun, a political advisor who worked on Mike Bloomberg’s mayoral campaign.

“You say you are ready on the first day? Great what do you do on the first day? They say you are a fixer – which agency are you going to fix first and why? ”Greenspun said. “Undecided has really been leading here since the polls began, and an attack is not going to convince voters to vote in any particular way. … Debate three should be the information debate. It should be what are you going to do? “

For the top candidates, Wednesday evening will be a chance to convince voters to put them above their rivals – and if they fail, second or third place.

And it will be one final shot for the candidates left behind to make their mark. City Comptroller Scott Stringer was an early progressive favorite but lost much of its support after two sexual misconduct allegations. Another leftist candidate, Dianne Morales, saw her campaign implode amid a staff revolt. Former HUD secretary Shaun Donovan and Wall Street executive Ray McGuire lagged behind most polls during their campaigns.

It’s the last of three official debates organized by the City’s Campaign Finance Council. The candidates also faced each other in an unofficial CBS debate last week.

Public safety was a dominant issue in the race while the shootings in the five boroughs increased dramatically. Adams, in particular, has made combating this surge a core part of his campaign and has clashed repeatedly with Wiley, also a former MSNBC commentator whose platform includes the $ 1 billion cut in the NYPD.

“Some of the more conservative elements are coming up to them. They put money into other campaigns. And she doesn’t let herself be deterred when she talks about the changes that have to happen in this city, ”said Wiley campaign advisor Jon Paul Lupo.

Yang and Adams have also argued on a deeply personal level, although their political views do not differ dramatically: both appear as moderates on police, education, and other issues. The Marist poll showed that people who choose Adam first are most likely to choose Yang, and vice versa.

“This is everyone’s race,” Yang told reporters on Tuesday during an election freeze.

“I can’t wait to speak to the people of New York again and deliver the message that I am the mayor who will provide real public safety for us and our families,” said Yang its support from the NYPD Captains Union – the union of which Adams was formerly a member.

Garcia plans to discuss her crime, public safety and police reform agenda, and thwart her plans for free childcare and affordable housing, according to her campaign.

Stringer wants to argue that he is still the only candidate with the appropriate political experience to implement progressive politics, his people said. He lost several supporters of the left in the course of the misconduct allegations, which he has denied. On Wednesday evening, he wants to focus on his agenda for affordable housing.

“We have progressive candidates in the running who do not have the experience to be mayors and we have seasoned candidates who are not progressive,” said Tyrone Stevens, press secretary for Stringer. “Scott Stringer is the only one on stage who offers both.”

Polls released this week by conservative and liberal groups show slightly different lineups for the top contenders.

A Manhattan Institute survey found Adams and Garcia head to head with 21 percent and 20 percent respectively at the top – Garcia finally wins after 11 rounds of the ranking selection table, per model.

A Progress survey data found Adams first at 26 percent and Wiley second at 20 percent, followed by Yang at 16 percent and Garcia at 14 percent.

While the final debate will be billed as a match-up of the leading contenders, the same eight candidates have been featured in previous debates. They had to qualify for public matching funds, which seven of the candidates did, or raise and spend $ 2.25 million, which allowed McGuire to qualify despite being pulled out of the public funding system.

Wiley and Garcia are likely to benefit the most from Wednesday’s debate on their stronger results in the latest polls, Greenspun said.

“It’s a real opportunity for Kathryn Garcia – she’s close enough and this is a real opportunity for her to break out in a way that she didn’t have in the early debates,” he said. “Eric Adams’ strategy should be to run the clock.”

Tina Nguyen and David Giambusso contributed to this report.

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