New York City mayoral candidate Eric Adams speaks to reporters outside the White House on July 12 following a meeting with President Joe Biden on the administration's strategy to reduce gun crimes in the United States. File Photo by Sarah Silbiger/UPI | License Photo
Oct. 21 (UPI) -- The two men who are running to replace Bill de Blasio as mayor of New York City squared off in their first debate on Wednesday night, and clashed over the city's COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
Democrat Eric Adams and Republican Curtis Sliwa traded jabs during the debate, which also included pubic safety and preparing for severe weather storms in the future.
Adams, a former New York Police Department captain, and Sliwa, founder of the Guardian Angels, battled over de Blasio's new vaccine mandate for all city employees, which includes police officers and firefighters.
Adams said he would uphold the mandate if he's elected, even if it thins the ranks of the police force.
"[The city doesn't] have enough police officers as it is," Sliwa said, according to WNBC-TV, while promising to hire thousands of new officers and pay for them with a property tax on Madison Square Garden, Columbia University and New York University.
For his part, Adams touted his background in law enforcement and chastised Sliwa's past of fabricating crimes during the 1980s.
"New Yorkers are going to make a determination of a person that wore a bulletproof vest, protected the children and families of the city and fought crime, against a person who made up crimes so that he can be popular," Adams said, according to The New York Times. "He made up crime, New Yorkers. That in itself is a crime."
"I made mistakes," Sliwa answered. "I was immature at the age of 25 and did things I should not have done. I know my opponent, Eric Adams, similarly has done things that he's apologized for."
Sliwa criticized Adams on his residency in city amid reports that the Democrat owns property in New Jersey.
Both candidates agreed on improving public safety and expanding access to the gifted and talented program in New York City schools. Adams also said he would order that all children in New York City schools must be vaccinated. Sliwa said he would not, mainly because it would result in some students having to stay home.
At several points during the event, Adams criticized Sliwa for interrupting his answers and not following debate rules.
New York City's mayoral election is Nov. 2.