Adams Uses NYC Mayoral Edge to Cast Himself as National Leader

New York mayoral front-runner Eric Adams sought to cast his lead in the race as the first signs of a change in the national Democratic party, arguing that traditional public-safety messaging resonates with even the most progressive voters in the city and across the country.

In his first post-primary public appearances on Thursday, Adams said he has resumed his duties as Brooklyn Borough president while he awaits the final primary results, which may not come until mid-July. He led with 31.7% of the unofficial vote count on Election Day, far short of the majority needed to win.

Adams Uses NYC Mayoral Edge to Cast Himself as National Leader

Still, Adams already is starting to position himself as the mayor-in-waiting of the most populous city in the U.S., an office that has long attracted national attention. In appearances on national cable news and outside of his Brooklyn offices, he positioned the race as a referendum on the national party as it grapples with rising crime in big cities.

“I am the face of the new Democratic party,” Adams, 60, said outside of Brooklyn Borough Hall on Thursday. “If the Democratic party fails to recognize what we did here in New York, they’re going to have a problem in the midterm elections, and they’re going to have a problem in the presidential election.”

Adams led progressive civil-rights lawyer Maya Wiley by about nine percentage points in the unofficial results from Election Day. Wiley campaigned on a vow to cut $1 billion from the NYPD budget and fund more mental-health and social programs.

Shooting Spree

In an interview on MSNBC, Adams suggested other candidates may have been slow to understand the seriousness of a national wave in violent crime and how it has gripped New York City, where shooting incidents are up 64% compared with last year, because most of it has been confined to minority neighborhoods. About 95% of shooting victims are Black and Brown, as are 95% of the shooters, he said. The attitude, he said, was reflected in vote results that showed him leading in every borough except Manhattan.

“Adams built a traditional coalition, starting in the outer boroughs, African-American-based, but also in South Asian and White areas of Queens,” said Democratic political consultant Bill Cunningham. “It’s the power of the crime issue.”

Unlike Adams, candidates such as Wiley were limited in their approach to the issue because they risked losing the backing of their supporters if they advocated more police in the subways and on the streets, said Democratic political consultant George Arzt.

Twin Approach

Adams attributed his election night lead to a campaign that focused on crime in minority communities with a twin approach that included more traditional policing as well as the need for more social programs.

The 22-year NYPD veteran said his experience of being assaulted by police officers as a youth gave him a unique point of view in the campaign, helping him identify the city’s crime problem as a fundamental issue early, and giving him perspective on the limits of law enforcement in dealing with the problem.

Adams said he’d read “Team of Rivals” during the campaign, a book about Abraham Lincoln choosing former opponents to join his cabinet, and he said he would bring in rivals to help him run the city. He specifically mentioned Dianne Morales, who was perhaps the most progressive candidate among eight top vote-getters, as someone with good ideas. He said she was “directly head-on when she talks about the mental health aspects” of crime. “I think we all should come together,” he said.

Wiley and the unofficial third-place finisher after the first round, former sanitation commissioner Kathryn Garcia, have said they will await results of the ranked-choice count, including tens of thousands of absentee ballots not yet opened. The two got 22.2% and 19.5% of first-choice votes, respectively. But mathematically, they remain in contention as second, third, fourth and fifth choices from those who voted for the lower-ranked candidates are distributed to the candidates who finished strongest.

Former presidential candidate and entrepreneur Andrew Yang, who had 11.7% in the first round, conceded Tuesday night. But Wiley and Garcia said they still have a path to victory.

Adams said he is “comfortable” with where he stands in the race. He acknowledged the fact that the count continues and pledged he would support whoever the final winner is, even as he grappled with the broader implications of his lead.

“The technical part of the race, and what I am supposed to do, is over,” Adams said. “Now it’s time for the bean counters to do what they’re doing. We’re just going to wait it out.”

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