Eight candidates to be the next mayor of New York City — the country's largest metropolis — sparred over housing, homelessness and education Wednesday evening in the third and final debate before next week's Democratic primary.
Many of the candidates tried to land punches on their opponents in a final effort to appeal to voters, tens of thousands of whom have already cast their ballots.
The city Board of Elections said Wednesday that more than 64,000 people have voted since early voting began over the weekend. Whoever wins the primary Tuesday is likely to win the Nov. 2 general election, given the city's large Democratic voter base. However, turnout tends to be low in New York City primaries. About 700,000 New Yorkers voted in the 2013 primaries, about 20 percent of registered voters.
The two-hour live, in-person debate was moderated by NBC New York, Telemundo, Politico, the Citizens Budget Commission and the New York Urban League.
The gloves came off when candidates were asked to name the worst idea they had heard from their opponents on the campaign trail.
Both former city Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia and Raymond McGuire, a former business executive, said defunding the police wasn't good policy, which drew the ire of nonprofit executive Dianne Morales after McGuire suggested that it was young, white activists who push that rhetoric.
"The defund movement was actually started by young Black and brown people," Morales said. "I am a member of that community, and you are certainly not speaking for me."
McGuire shot back: "I just did."
Morales said the worst idea she had heard was that some of the candidates supported "flooding the subways with more cops." Civil rights lawyer Maya Wiley said the worst idea she had heard was from Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, a former New York police captain, to bring back the controversial stop-and-frisk policy and the police department's controversial anti-crime unit. Adams denied that he wanted to reinstate stop and frisk.
Businessman Andrew Yang, the 2020 presidential candidate, said the worst idea he had heard was Adams' suggestion to take firearms to church. Adams went after many of Yang's proposals, specifically his plan for a universal basic income, which Adams called "Monopoly money." Former City Comptroller Scott Stringer also said the worst ideas he has heard came from Yang, such as building a casino on Governors Island and creating "TikTok houses" for artists.
The candidates were also asked what problem they didn't know how to solve, and the majority mentioned education.
All the candidates were asked whether they would add police on subways to deter crime on public transit. All but three raised their hands in support; Stringer, Morales and Wiley said no. Asked whether they would extend school days to make up for class time lost during the pandemic, all but Stringer and Morales said they would support it.
They were also asked whether they would offer current Mayor Bill de Blasio a job in their administrations.
Every candidate said no. Adams, McGuire and Stringer, however, said they would seek his counsel on policy matters.
Yang said that not only would he not offer de Blasio a job, but "he wouldn't want a job with my administration." Wiley said she wouldn't offer a position to someone who wasn't asking for one.
The candidates were pressed about new ideas to fight homelessness and get resources to undocumented city residents. After Yang answered a question about what he'd do differently to help homeless New Yorkers, such as increasing psychiatric care, Stringer said it was the worst non-answer he'd heard in the debate.
For the first time, the city will use ranked-choice voting in a primary, giving voters the option to select as many as five candidates in order of preference.
A recent poll by Change Research placed Adams at 23 percent, slightly ahead of Wiley and Garcia, each of whom had 19 percent.
Yang was at 12 percent. Stringer, who has denied sexual assault allegations, was at 8 percent. Obama administration Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan got 4 percent, and McGuire was at 3 percent. Morales was at 1 percent. The poll of 822 likely Democratic voters, conducted June 11-14, found that 10 percent of voters remain undecided.
In a ranked-choice voting simulation also conducted by Change Research, Garcia got 51 percent thanks to her strong second- and third-choice rankings among those who ranked Wiley, Yang or Stringer first.