That was the general takeaway from three independent analysts, who said that Democratic mayoral nominee Eric Adams notched a win during the general election’s first televised mayoral debate Wednesday as he stayed on script for the hour-long forum and largely ignored attacks from his Republican opponent, Curtis Sliwa. The three independent analysts were chosen by New York Post
Before that debate “Team Eric Adam” has organized a rally in the city as a mean of victory.
Adams’s decision to brush aside Sliwa’s pointed one-liners — honed through years of practice as a radio talk-show host — deprived the conservative activist of any chance at reshaping the Nov. 2 contest, in which Democrats already enjoy massive voter registration and fundraising advantages.
“Democrats outnumber Republicans by a 7-to-1 margin and regardless of how well Sliwa does in debates, New York City grades on a curve and he’ll never get higher than a B,” wrote Chapin Fay, the press secretary for former Gov. George Pataki, the last Republican to win that job. “Sliwa is a one-issue candidate and his path to victory virtually closed when Democrats nominated a moderate Black cop.”
“Too bad cats can’t vote,” he added, referencing the many feline friends Sliwa houses in his apartment.
Fay’s conclusion was echoed by two veteran Democratic strategists, Eric Soufer and Eric Koch, who also kept scorecards during the WNBC-TV/Univision/Politico New York forum, which took place at NBC’s studios in Midtown.
Adams won because he “didn’t spontaneously combust on stage,” joked Soufer, who was a top adviser to former state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.
“Adams may actually win registered Republicans in this race,” he added.
Koch — who most recently worked as a top advisor to Maya Wiley during the bruising 2021 Democratic primary fight — wrote that Sliwa got lost trying to create a viral moment that would reset the debate
“Curtis started OK, but then spent the rest of the debate trying and failing to create a memorable moment for himself,” he said.
Here is how the panel graded the candidates on several topics from the first debate:
The two candidates traded barbs over their track records on the issue as Adams constantly referenced his time as a city cop and Sliwa just as often brought up the anti-crime citizens brigade he founded, the Guardian Angels.
Koch: “This is Adams’ strongest pitch — and he made clear just like he did in the primary that he’s vying to be the candidate who can both have the respect of the police while at the same time driving much-needed reforms at the NYPD. Adams also landed points on Curtis, bringing up when he admitted to making up crimes to promote the Guardian Angels.” (Adams: A/Sliwa: B)
Fay: “Curtis continued his weird strategy of trying to attract Yang voters. Adams got more votes in the Dem primary than Sliwa and Yang combined. This is one of the top issues on voters’ minds as crime runs rampant in the city and Adams wins no matter what Curtis does. If they are debating crime, the Democrat cop wins every time.” (Adams: A/Sliwa: C)
Soufer: “Adams has been locked in on this issue since the primary and nothing has changed since. Good anecdotes and populist conservative messaging will only get Sliwa so far with City voters.” (Adams: A-/Sliwa: B-)
Both candidates said they disagreed with Mayor Bill de Blasio’s decision to merge the city’s gifted and talented classes back into its larger elementary school program.
Koch: “Adams scored points with vaccine mandates for students and did a good job speaking to all New York City parents when he said a single test can’t determine the rest of their futures. Curtis did not have a good answer why other vaccines should be mandated for students but not for COVID-19.” (Adams: B/Sliwa: C)
Fay: “They don’t sound all that different on education. Tie always goes to the Democrat.” (Adams: A/Sliwa: A-)
Soufer: “Adams showed compassion, experience, and personal commitment to the issues and that’s good enough for most parents. Sliwa offered a rambling, nonsensical answer on vaccine mandate, but came out on the right side of G/T question and longer school year.” (Adams: B+/Sliwa: C)
Adams said that he backed Hizzoner’s call Wednesday to mandate all city staff get vaccinated, a move Sliwa said he opposed. Adams also said that he favored a COVID vaccine mandate for public school students, while Sliwa said he would oppose such a move.
Koch: “Adams was able to personalize how COVID has impacted all New Yorkers and was clear about how he would implement vaccine mandates to ensure the city’s workforce is protected from COVID-19.” (Adams: A/Sliwa: C)
Fay: “Curtis took the opportunity to connect Adams with the very unpopular de Blasio, which is a good strategy and what he should have been doing in every answer.” (Adams: B/Sliwa B+)
Soufer: “Adams deployed a compelling, emotional hook of COVID’s early days to remind voters why a vaccine mandate for students is necessary. Sliwa’s answer on the vaccine mandate for students was a swing and a miss. He couldn’t explain why it was different from the half dozen other vaccines we already mandate.
Koch: “Adams got a chance to showcase his new endorsement from the transportation advocates and he was right to connect transportation to bikes and other modes of transportation, he also voiced support for congestion pricing which is going to help fund the MTA. Curtis focused on the police and traffic control rather than showcasing a vision for how to make the streets actually safer.” (Adams: B+/Sliwa: C+)
Adams promised to expand the city’s warning systems to better alert New Yorkers — particularly those in illegal basement apartments — of potentially dangerous weather and speed the city’s response afterward. Sliwa hammered the de Blasio administration over repeated delays in seawall construction and other public works projects.
Fay: “Adams sounded rehearsed and Sliwa sounded passionate. Sliwa would have earned an A+ here but he focused too much on Staten Island. That’s his base, to be competitive, he needs to expand his vote in places like the Bronx, which is also still waiting on promised seawalls.” (Adams: B/Sliwa: A)
Adams said that he favors the current plan to close Rikers and replace it with new or renovated jails in the four biggest boroughs, but added that he could be open to relocating some of the proposed facilities. Sliwa called for the city’s main jail complex to remain on Rikers and pledged he would move into the warden’s house.
Koch: “Eric Adams was forceful about how Rikers Island is a blight on New York City and how as Mayor he would take responsibility for it as Mayor. Curtis offered more theater but did not have anything substantive to say.” (Adams: A-/Sliwa: C+)
Fay: “Sliwa’s wheelhouse. He comes across as knowledgeable and passionate on this issue, and most New Yorkers don’t want jails in their neighborhoods. Fixing Rikers is the answer, not closing it and Sliwa was able to offer thoughtful solutions to a complicated problem.” (Adams: B+/Sliwa: A)
Soufer: “Most voters know this is a complicated issue and Adams’s responses smartly reflected that. Sliwa, on the other hand, said Rikers a lot and seems to support the correction officers, but I’m not sure what else voters would take away from that.” (Adams: B+/Sliwa: C)
Adams backed expanding the city’s supportive housing and social services programs for the mentally ill. Sliwa focused much of his energy on attacking the de Blasio administration’s multi-year $1.2 billion Thrive NYC program, which aimed to expand services for New Yorkers struggling with less severe forms of mental illness, but has produced few results.
Koch: “Curtis took this moment to attack Thrive — which was a cheap route to take when he could have actually laid out what he would do as Mayor. It was a small moment compared to Adams who had a substantive answer about how we can get people the help they need.” (Adams B+/Sliwa: D)
Fay: “Any time Adams is speaking about his experience as a police officer, he is winning. Sliwa’s answer about rezoning manufacturing areas for homeless services is yet another policy proposal that is creative, unique and thoughtful and shows off his extensive knowledge of New York City and its complicated issues.” (Adams: A+/Sliwa: A)
Soufer: “Adams talks about it like he knows about it. While Sliwa focused on Steven Banks (the current Homeless Services commissioner) and nobody knows who Steven Banks is.” (Adams: A/Sliwa: C-)