Is the Big Apple ready for a gun-carrying, pro-police mayor?

(AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

New York City voters will soon have to choose a new mayor. Would they consider a former police officer supporting police and blasting efforts to defund them? A man who once pledged to carry his firearms into every church and synagogue he entered?

What if that candidate was a progressive black Democrat and a current borough president? Politico offers a deep dive on Eric Adams, a man who sees the current crime wave as a means to get elected and reimpose successful policing policies in the Big Apple:

Now Adams is among the top-tier Democratic candidates running to be the next mayor of New York, ranking second in most public polls and sitting on a $7.8 million war chest. As he competes in an eight-person field, he is carving a path formed by his biography: A Black man who openly discusses being a teenager assaulted by police officers, only to become one himself at a time when the city was mired in crime. He quickly challenged orthodoxies within the NYPD, protesting the cop shooting of a mentally-ill Black woman when he was in the Police Academy. …

But as a proud former police officer running for mayor with crime on the rise, Adams is often castigated for being out of step with the activist wing of a party whose vote he is seeking on June 22.

He wants to reinstate a plainclothes unit disbanded by the NYPD last year to focus on gun safety. He readily denounces the “defund NYPD” slogan that surged after the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last year. He has defended the controversial practice of stop-and-frisk if used correctly. He wants spot checks for guns entering the city at Port Authority bus terminals. …

Where some candidates focus on criminal justice reform, Adams has zeroed in on the uptick in shootings — a 64-percent increase this year, according to recent data. “The prerequisite to prosperity is public safety,” he often says.

Before Republicans fall too much in love with Adams, let it be known that he takes his progressivism seriously. He’s very much in favor of gun control, although perhaps not quite as enthusiastic as some in his party, and he’s no knee-jerk #BacktheBlue advocate either. He does, however, wonder why all of the voices speaking out about police violence have nothing to say about other violence that “overwhelmingly destroys black and brown lives … A parent does not receive consolation if someone knocks on their door and says a person in a blue uniform killed their child unjustly, or a gangbanger in blue jeans.”

At the moment, Andrew Yang has leveraged his media coverage from the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries into a healthy polling lead in the run for the party’s mayoral nomination. Most of the rest of the competition are following the narratives du jour for 2021 — “defund the police,” systemic racism, and so on. Adams could distinguish himself as the only substantive alternative for Democrats in the primary, one that captures the growing frustration and fear over violent crime and a police force that is too much in retreat to do much to contain it.

As for carrying during worship, Adams isn’t backing down at all on that point:

“My life as a law enforcement officer for 22 years is rooted in not so much idealism, but realism,” Adams said. “I understand how people may have responded, but when people prey on individuals while they’re praying, that’s an alarm for me.”

That’s likely to resonate with Big Apple voters, even many Democrats, who now see crime as their top concern after COVID-19:

More than half of likely Democratic voters, 51%, chose COVID-19 when asked the main problems facing the city in our exclusive Spectrum News NY1/Ipsos poll.

Crime or violence was second, with 39% calling it a main problem. Third place was affordable housing (37%), followed by racial injustice (27%). Respondents were given a list of 14 issues to choose from.

For all the attention on defunding the NYPD, particularly during last summer’s protests in the wake of George Floyd’s murder, police reform was far down the list, seen as a main problem by just 11% of likely voters.

Those numbers may help explain the state of the mayor’s race, where two moderates, Andrew Yang and Eric Adams, lead the pack, trailed by more progressive candidates like Scott Stringer and Maya Wiley.

And that’s among the party’s voters. One can imagine what it would look like in polling of the general electorate. If Democrats don’t choose someone who takes crime seriously as their nominee, Republicans might have an opportunity to win back control of the nation’s biggest city.