By Joseph Ax
(Reuters) -Democrat Eric Adams won New York City’s mayoral race on Tuesday on promises to boost public safety and give voice to working-class residents, drawing on his experience as a police captain and as a Black man who experienced police brutality as a youth.
Adams, the Brooklyn borough president since 2014, will become the city’s second Black mayor after easily defeating Republican Curtis Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels civilian patrol.
The 61-year-old Adams takes over in January from Democrat Bill de Blasio, who was term-limited after eight years in office.
Adams will face the task of overseeing the largest U.S. city’s nascent recovery from the coronavirus pandemic, as well as confronting wealth inequality, the lack of affordable housing and struggling public schools.
He had been expected to win handily in the overwhelmingly Democratic city.
“We are so divided right now, and we’re missing the beauty of our diversity,” Adams told supporters on Tuesday night. “Today we take off the intramural jerseys and we put on one jersey, Team New York.”
Adams’ victory could give President Joe Biden’s Democrats some signs of where voters stand as the party strives to maintain a fragile alliance between progressives and centrists in Washington.
Adams prevailed in the party’s primary election with a coalition that resembled, in some ways, the voters who helped elevate Biden to the Democratic nomination in 2020, especially his support among more moderate Black voters.
Progressives worry Adams will cater too much to the real estate industry, a powerful lobby that gave generously to his campaign.
Democrat Alvin Bragg was elected Manhattan district attorney on Tuesday, the Associated Press projected, making him the first Black person to lead one of the country’s highest-profile prosecutor’s offices.
Bragg will inherit the criminal investigation into the business empire of former President Donald Trump, a probe initiated in 2018 under the current district attorney, Cyrus Vance Jr., who is retiring.
RIGHT ON ‘STREETS,’ NOT ‘TWEETS’
Adams has not been shy about suggesting that his triumph can serve as a blueprint for national Democrats. He has been dismissive of critics of his agenda on the left who he says do not speak for mainstream Democrats.
“I say that it’s time for us to stop believing that we should have the right tweets. We should have the right safe streets,” Adams told CNN after winning the party’s nomination in July.
Portraying himself as a “blue-collar” New Yorker, he said working-class Democrats had been ignored by the party’s more liberal wing.
Perhaps no issue has animated Democrats more in the past year than policing, after the 2020 police killing of George Floyd, a Black man, in Minneapolis sparked months of demonstrations across the country.
But a spike in crime has prompted mayoral candidates across the country to call for more investment in policing, not less, as public safety has risen to the top of many voters’ list of concerns.
Adams has argued the city cannot make a full economic recovery without addressing violent crime. He bluntly rejected the “defund the police” movement as a product of left-wing activists.
Instead, he has sought to strike a balance between calling for more aggressive policing and vowing reforms, including more diversity in the department’s senior ranks.
His personal story helped lend credence to his words. Adams has spoken of being beaten by police officers as a teenager. While a member of the New York City Police Department, Adams developed a reputation as an activist after co-founding 100 Blacks in Law Enforcement Who Care, an advocacy group that spoke out against police brutality.
Adams, who secured key union backing, is seen as labor-friendly. He has also said he will work to connect more low-income residents with city services they are eligible for but do not use.
Adams, who has acknowledged having his eye on City Hall for decades, has sometimes been accused of altering his persona for political expediency. He switched to the Republican Party for several years before running successfully for the state Senate as a Democrat, and he has described himself as both a progressive and a moderate.