Just six days until New Yorkers vote for the next mayor in the city’s first ranked choice election, the eight leading candidates gathered one last time to make fun of the old mayor and try to knock the frontrunner off his course. With early voting numbers relatively low up to this point, the candidates — Eric Adams, Kathryn Garcia, Maya Wiley, Andrew Yang, Scott Stringer, Dianne Morales, Shaun Donovan, and Ray McGuire — hoped to convince the small number of New Yorkers who vote in mayoral elections to put their name at the top of the ballot. Below are the highlights from the fourth and final debate before the Democratic primary on June 22.
Yang and Adams fight over a police union endorsement
In one of the first discussions of policing and public safety — the dominant issue of the primary for months now — moderators asked Andrew Yang why he would be the best candidate to counter an uptick in violent crime. Yang responded by citing his endorsement on Monday from the Captains Endowment Association, one of four unions representing the New York Police Department and one that represented Adams during part of his career. “The people you should ask about this are his colleagues,” Yang said, referring to Eric Adams’s status as a former cop. “They think I’m a better choice than Eric for keeping us and our families safe.” Yang added that he is someone who will “follow through,” and that he was also endorsed by the firefighter’s union. The two then went back and forth on whether or not Adams had asked for any NYPD union endorsements. Adams said “I never went in front of them,” though Yang referred to an NBC report in which Adams asked for police union co-signs.
What hypothetical role would Bill de Blasio have in your administration?
In one of several lightning rounds, moderators asked the candidates what role Bill de Blasio could fill in their administrations if he asked for one. (The question was clearly a hypothetical, considering the odd nature of such a relationship and the fact that the current mayor is pretty checked out of his job already.) Eric Adams said he “wouldn’t hire him” but that he would seek his advice before entering office. Kathryn Garcia, Andrew Yang, Maya Wiley, and Shaun Donovan all answered with an outright no; following Garcia’s negative, Scott Stringer said “you know it’s bad” if an alumni wouldn’t hire him and also said no. Ray McGuire also turned down hizzoner, but said he would ask about his universal pre-kindergarten program, considered one of the clearest successes of his time in office. Dianne Morales rejected the question, saying that the candidates need to move away from the “debasing of the current mayor.”
Stringer and Yang spar over UBI
The two candidates, who have slipped in polling over the past month or so, took several jabs at each other, including Stringer’s claim that Yang’s universal basic income initiative for New York City is a “fake UBI program.” Stringer suggested that the program would only come out to around $5 a day for around 6 percent of the population. Naturally, Yang disagreed about the project on which he campaigned during the presidential primary, noting the impact that direct coronavirus relief has had in reducing poverty during the pandemic.
Stringer and Dianne Morales also knocked Yang for his proposals to reduce homelessness in New York City, an issue on which the candidate is consistently energized. Yang noted that the homeless crisis in New York is a mental-health crisis and vowed to “rebuild the stock of psych beds” in the city. Stringer described that proposal as “the greatest non-answer I’ve ever heard in all our debates.” Morales also pushed back on a comment from Yang: “Yes, mentally ill people have rights, but you know who else have rights? We do, the people and families of this city. We have the right to walk the streets and not fear for our safety because a mentally ill person is going to lash out at us.” She noted that mental illness is not a crime.
The candidates identify each others’ worst ideas
Moderators asked each candidate to describe the worst idea they’ve heard from a rival. Andrew Yang said that Eric Adams’s vow to carry a gun while mayor — even in church — “speaks for itself.” Adams countered, saying that Yang’s UBI proposal equates to “monopoly money” and that it is not a real solution for real New Yorkers. Scott Stringer also called out Yang, but for his idea to bring hype houses to the city and a casino to Governor’s Island.
Kathryn Garcia and Ray McGuire said that reducing the conversation around police reform to the “hashtag” of defunding the police is not helpful. While Shaun Donovan declined to answer, bringing up equity bonds for children born in the boroughs, Maya Wiley said that Eric Adams’s pledge to bring back a strategic version of stop and frisk is the worst idea of the primary. Dianne Morales, too, discussed policing, saying that “flooding subways with more police officers,” as Yang and Adams have suggested, would be a mistake.
What would the candidates ban in New York?
Michael Bloomberg hasn’t been spoken of too highly throughout this primary, but when the candidates were asked what they would ban in New York, several answers were consistent with the billionaire’s approach. Maya Wiley said that she “would love to ban every sugary drink” and that “my kids love them.” Shaun Donovan said he would try to eliminate food deserts in neighborhoods, while Dianne Morales said she would try to ensure all delis have fresh fruit and vegetables. Kathryn Garcia said “corn syrup,” while Scott Stringer said he would “drill down on healthy foods school districts should have.” Eric Adams said he would ban processed meat in schools and Ray McGuire said he would end “health-care deserts.” Andrew Yang took a different approach, saying he would crack down on “those ATVs that are terrorizing our streets right now.”