NYC Mayoral Race: 5 Democratic candidates face off in final debate before early voting begins

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Five leading Democratic candidates for New York City mayor faced off on the debate stage Thursday night, just days before early primary voting begins.

Democratic candidates Eric Adams, Kathryn Garcia, Scott Stringer, Maya Wiley and Andrew Yang participated in the debate, moderated by CBS2's Marcia Kramer and Maurice DuBois.

WCBS 880’s Steve Burns reported the event was a slightly more intimate affair with just five candidates, and it led to several notable exchanges.

Among some of the standout moments was when candidates were asked how they would handle the working relationship with Gov. Andrew Cuomo, assuming he's still in office come January.

Stringer, who is the current New York City Comptroller, said he would use his political experience to boost the relationship with Albany.

“This is where experience comes in. Mayor [Bill] de Blasio played checkers with Andrew Cuomo when he should've been playing chess, and the reality is we need to reset the Albany relationship between the mayor and the governor,” Stringer said.

Meanwhile, Yang felt that his working relationship with Gov. Cuomo’s brother, Chris Cuomo, would lend a helping hand in building a relationship.

“I've had a number of calls with Gov. Cuomo. I worked with his brother at CNN. I can work with Gov. Cuomo but, I can work with anyone who's going to help us deliver for the people of New York,” Yang said.

However, Stringer did not seem to agree with Yang’s approach, calling the former presidential candidate “naïve.”

“This is not how Albany works. This is de Blasio 2.0,” Stringer said of Yang.

Another hot button issue was the topic of Adams’ residency.

Adams owns a home with his girlfriend in Fort Lee, New Jersey and has also been seen spending nights at Brooklyn Borough Hall. Because of this, some have raised questions about whether he lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant.

Yang went particularly hard attacking Adams. However, other candidates seemed ready to move on, acknowledging Adams’ situation was somewhat unusual but, they were looking to focus on other issues.

Adams, who has been leading in recent polls, announced Thursday that he would participate in the debate after initially saying he would skip the event to attend a vigil for a 10-year-old Justin Wallace, who was fatally shot in Queens over the weekend.

"I’ll be on stage and ready to talk about how to make this city safer, fairer and more affordable," Adams said in a tweet. "After speaking with Justin Wallace’s family representative, we decided that my opponents’ attempts to politicize tonight’s vigil would be a painful distraction. I will honor him tonight and continue to work with the family to bring an end to gun violence."

Adams, who is still seen as a frontrunner, said he anticipated the questions about his residency, and tried to reframe the attacks prior to the debate.

"They're penalizing me or they're trying to criticize me because 'Eric is working long hours,' yes I'm guilty of that, I'm a workaholic for the people of this city," Adams said.

On the debate stage, Adams declared, "I live in Brooklyn, New York. I'm proud of that."

On Wednesday, he gave reporters an impromptu tour of a basement apartment in Bed-Stuy that he claims is his.

Yang has called on him to release his E-ZPass records to prove his city residency.

Burns reported Thursday that Adams did release some of those records, which showed seven trips to New Jersey over the last year.

At the debate, Yang said, "We've been on dozens of forums together and I've never seen that basement apartment in my life, and I think the other candidates here would agree, but we have seen the New Jersey background and apparently the doormen in Fort Lee recognize you immediately."

A new PIX11, NewsNation and Emerson College Poll released prior to the debate showed Adams leading all Democratic candidates with 23% and Wiley just six points behind him following endorsements by a number of progressives, including Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Rounding out the top five are Yang at 15%, Garcia with 12% and Stringer with 9%.

Among 250 Republicans surveyed, Curtis Sliwa leads Fernando Mateo, 33% to 27%, with 40% undecided.

Sliwa's lead falls within the margin of error, +/-6.1%.

Primary Day is June 22.