NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Mayoral candidate Eric Adams will participate in Thursday night’s CBS2’s leading contenders debate after all.
After declining the invitation earlier this week, questions arose about Adams’ place of residence.
Now, the Brooklyn borough president has changed his mind. He will join four other top candidates in a final face-off before primary voting begins Saturday, CBS2’s John Dias reported.
Tune in to CBS2 tonight at 7p for the mayoral debate. I’ll be on stage and ready to talk about how to make this city safer, fairer and more affordable.
— Eric Adams (@ericadamsfornyc) June 10, 2021
Adams originally said he would instead attend a vigil for 10-year-old Justin Wallace, who was killed by gunfire last weekend in Queens. But he changed his tune earlier Thursday, saying he fears he would be a distraction for the boy’s family, CBS2’s Dick Brennan reported.
“I reached out to them and I said, listen, I don’t want to politicize the murder of this 10-year-old child. If I come and don’t do the debate everyone is going to be there and there going to be talking about the debate and not Justin,” Adams said.
Adams also continued to try to convince his opponents that he does indeed reside in the city.
“They want to turn this into an issue. This is not an issue. It’s not an issue at all,” Adams said on WPIX.
On Wednesday, Adams invited reporters to his Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn apartment, insisting he lives there. It came in response to questions about how much time he spends at a co-op in Fort Lee, New Jersey that he co-owns with his girlfriend, and in response to reports that say he sleeps at Brooklyn Borough Hall often.
One of his opponents, Andrew Yang, even asked for Adams’ E-ZPass records. CBS2 received records of those transactions, which reveal fewer than a dozen trips to New Jersey in the 12-month span between May of 2020 and May of 2021. However, it is unclear whether Adams traveled to New Jersey without using his E-ZPass, or by using other means of transportation.
“They’ve been following me for months. They know where I am. So for his campaign and other campaigns to say this, they’ve been trailing me for months,” Adams said. “So when people want to scrutinize everything, I live at Lafayette Avenue.
“There are probably three, four times I just took the bus over [to New Jersey]. I’m going to see the person that I love. What’s wrong with on weekends stopping to see the person that you love? When did we get so bizarre?” Adams added.
The explanations did not satisfy Yang, who no doubt will follow up his attack at the debate.
“It’s remarkable that two days before early voting we’re literally trying to find out where one of the candidates lives,” Yang said.
Mayor Bill de Blasio is sticking up for Adams.
“He’s a Brooklynite. He’s a New Yorker. He has served the city in many different capacities. I just don’t see an issue here,” de Blasio said.
That said, the mayor said he’s not yet ready to endorse a candidate.
“I am going to vote on Primary Day, on June 22. I am going to think about how much I want to share with the people of the city. If I think it is important to go into detail about what I’m feeling, I will, but I’m really going to watch,” de Blasio said.
The allegations against Adams came to light right before CBS2 was to host the top Democratic candidates in a debate, just days before early voting begins.
Among those who will take part Thursday night is Maya Wiley, who has received key endorsements, including one from Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and has picked up steam in a new poll, surging into second place behind Adams.
“It is debate day. What New Yorkers want to hear is what we are going to do and I look forward to seeing the borough president tonight at the debate,” Wiley said.
Political science professor Alain Sanders said debates are free commercials for candidates with a lot of risks. There’s no room to mess up, so they’ll have to be careful.
“That’s one of the reasons why incumbents or the candidates who are leading in the polls tend to refuse to go on a debate. They know that the dangers are greater than the possible benefits,” Sanders said.
The debate will likely focus on crucial campaign issues, including the city’s economic comeback, and crime.
“We are now facing an epidemic of crime and gun violence. Today, crime rates across the city are rising in nearly all categories,” candidate Kathryn Garcia said.
Early voting goes from Saturday until June 20. You can request an absentee ballot online or by mail up until June 15, and Primary Day, itself, is June 22.
You can watch the debate Thursday at 7 p.m. on CBS2 and CBSN New York.
CBS2’s Dick Brennan contributed to this report