Eric Adams got the job done and now he’s leading the New York mayor’s race

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Tusha diaz stood under a giant disco ball, waiting Eric Adams. It was the night of the primary, and the polling stations in New York had just ended; at Adams’ party, large television screens showed him taking the lead in the mayoral race. As Diaz waited for Adams to take the stage and speak, she kept an eye on her son, Hector Bonilla, a lanky 24-year-old man in a suit and tie, fresh out of his job in the financial industry. Diaz had raised Hector as a single mother in the Bronx while on welfare. She now runs two Bronx beauty spas and operates a pantry. “The biggest problem in this city is education,” says Diaz. “The public schools in our neighborhood were a problem, so I sent Hector to Eagle Academy. This is how I first heard about Eric Adams – he supported Eagle, then during COVID he was in the community distributing food and PPE. He was the president of the Brooklyn Borough, but he had more of an impact in the Bronx than ours. “

There are a whole bunch of reasons Adams has built his margin and will likely maintain it once all the choice votes are tallied in the Democratic New York Mayor’s primary over the next few weeks. The timing of his campaign message turned out to be impeccable: Adams, a former cop, was running just as crime, including a series of particularly gruesome shootings, skyrocketed. Adams promised a double: As a former police officer he would make the city safer, but as a black man used to talking about reform he would also make the NYPD less abusive. His message was strongly reinforced by the New York Post, who not only endorsed Adams on his editorial page, but also promoted him on his news pages. Adams has benefited from the significant amount of media attention devoted to Andrew Yang, and the sheer number of mayoral candidates, both of which have reduced the space devoted to examining Adams’ complicated personal and political life. He got crucial backstage support from the outgoing mayor Bill de Blasio, who in February led the unions to the Adams camp. And the city’s younger and more progressive voters rallied late behind Maya Wiley, but they appeared to be in significantly fewer numbers than the systematically underestimated older and more moderate New York voters.

The most important factor fueling Adams’ apparent victory, however, is more difficult to quantify, much less a matter of ideology than of roots, and exemplified by Diaz and his son. Yang took the lead in the spring thanks to recognition of the name he inherited from his 2020 presidential bid, but he was a mile wide and an inch deep. Wiley and Catherine Garcia, who is currently in third place, were first-time candidates who struggled to make themselves known to voters until the final days of the campaign; Zoom’s first few months of lockdown due to COVID certainly didn’t help introduce them to the masses. Adams, meanwhile, has eagerly sought the New York spotlight since the mid-90s when he was an outspoken cop. Fifteen years as a sometimes controversial, sometimes awkward elected official – first in the State Senate, then as president of the Brooklyn Borough – gave Adams a broad public platform and allowed him to cultivate deep relationships with community groups, such as those who made Diaz a fan and supporter. Unless you are Mike Bloomberg, Capable of spending tens of millions of dollars of your own money, it remains incredibly difficult to break into the city’s insular Democratic political culture. And the experience of hundreds of hours walking the streets – first as a cop, then trying to compete for votes – is an invaluable foundation for a politician.

The flip side of all of those election candidacies and all of Adams’ connections was audible on his main party Tuesday. Suddenly the music was turned down and a voice came over the speakers: “We just need Frank Caron. Frank Carone, we need you near the DJ area, please.

Maybe he was paying for the microphone. Carone, the lawyer for the Brooklyn Democratic Party, is one of the city’s most influential power agents and fixers. He aided Adams’s political career in a variety of ways, from raising funds and appeals for real estate interests to providing office space for the Adams campaign without a formal rental agreement.

Adams has displayed impressive and rediscovered discipline throughout most of the campaign, repeating his compelling story and hammering out his promise to reform the police and reduce crime rates. Towards the frantic end, he ended up calling Yang a liar, claiming that a Garcia-Yang alliance was somehow racist and seemed reprisals against two journalists who had written difficult stories about him. Perhaps this growth will continue if Adams reaches City Hall, and he will truly be a mayor in touch with the neighborhoods. Or maybe the next four years will be scattered, personal and transactional.

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