NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- With less than six weeks to go, the Democratic primary that may decide the next mayor of New York City has reached a new stage of unpredictability.
The race to succeed the term-limited Mayor Bill de Blasio, also a Democrat, has chugged along for months with many New Yorkers too consumed by the coronavirus pandemic and the 2020 presidential election to notice.
But it is grabbing more attention now, with the June 22 Democratic primary looming, television advertisements starting to air and candidates increasingly meeting voters in person after a year of campaigning online because of the pandemic.
Eight top-tier candidates of the more than two dozen who entered the race, faced off in their first televised debate Thursday, sparring remotely over policing and each other's records.
And afterwards, civil rights attorney Maya Wiley has reason to be happy. She did well by going after Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams -- one of the top two candidates with former presidential hopeful Andrew Yang -- for being a registered Republican 25 years ago.
"Eric, you're a self described conservative Republican," she said. "Rudy Giuliani was mayor."
She also accused Adams, a former policeman, of supporting stop and frisk.
"Every time you ask that question, it really shows your failure of understanding law enforcement," Adams said. "So let me give you."
"Well having chaired New York City Civilian Complaint Review Board, I certainly understand misconduct," she replied.
As violent crime has spiked in the city, Adams has become the law and order candidate -- while Wiley wants to move a billion dollars out of the police department.
"And you know Eric and I disagree on this, and I think it's important to call out the conversation we have to have about ending this false choice between either being safe from crime or being safe from police violence," Wiley said Friday. "We can have both."
Former Obama housing secretary Shaun Donovan said it's not the time for newcomer to politics.
"This is not time for a rookie as mayor," he said. "This is the most consequential election of our lifetime. This is not the time for a rookie."
Also at the debate were Kathryn Garcia, a former city sanitation commissioner and veteran of several other city departments; Comptroller Scott Stringer, who is fighting off a sexual misconduct allegation; Ray McGuire, a former Citigroup executive; and Dianne Morales, a former nonprofit executive.
The debate had some fireworks, but not a lot. And with eight candidates on a Zoom call, it was often hard to watch.
De Blasio tuned in, but he didn't like what he saw.
"I thought it was not an overly eventful debate," he said. "It felt sort of like a warm up debate a bit. I assume the ones coming up might be a little more illuminating."
Channel 7 will air a debate with the Democratic candidates on Wednesday, June 2, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m., and a debate with the Republican candidates on Sunday, June 6.
Then, on Tuesday, October 26, at 7 p.m., WABC will host the final debate between the leading candidates before New Yorkers head to the polls to officially choose the next mayor.
Early voting starts in about a month, and Primary Day is June 22.
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