One of the most notable features of the first Democratic primary debate for New York City mayor earlier this month — aside from the candidates’ arguments over police reform and the alarmingly small number of viewers watching online — was the fact that it was being held on Zoom, although the CDC recommended earlier that day that vaccinated Americans can gather safely in many settings. But on Monday, WABC-TV, the channel hosting the second debate, announced that the contest among the leading eight candidates would be held in person.
“After receiving the final list of candidates this weekend and much due diligence reviewing the safety protocols, our team is now confident that we can host the June 2 mayoral debate with the candidates in person,” WABC-TV said in a statement. Prior to the Monday adjustment — which many of the candidates lobbied the city’s Campaign Finance Board in favor of — the event was scheduled to be held on Zoom again.
While that means viewers won’t get to look at the background of Shaun Donovan’s beautiful kitchen, the dynamic for the second debate will almost certainly be more engaging, as the candidates can actually press each other on the issues dominating the race. With Andrew Yang and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams leading the contest in polling, that moderate pair will likely draw the most criticism. In the May 13 debate, the tension was relatively brief. (As many white-collar workers have learned over the past year, crosstalk doesn’t work that well on video chat.) But on June 2, less than three weeks before the June 22 primary, the mayoral hopefuls will have an opportunity to dig in more directly.
Gauging Adams’s performance last round, the live event could be a benefit for the ex-cop who escalated the sparring when civil-rights attorney Maya Wiley came after him for his claim that stop and frisk was a “great tool.” However, it could be a challenge for Yang, who often pauses before questions by reasking the question to himself — a tactic that is ripe for interruption on a stage of eight. While both will likely be targeted for their fundraising among powerful private interests, a charged debate could be particularly difficult for Yang, who still struggles to answer basic municipal questions, like when he recently proposed a shelter program that already exists, or said his favorite Jay-Z song was from the mash-up album he did with Linkin Park.