NEW YORK — When New York City Mayor Eric Adams was asked whether he sees a place for himself on the 2024 presidential ticket, he gave an answer that fetes his current position without removing himself from the potential field.
“You could run the country from New York,” Adams said Thursday night in a local TV interview. “Why would you want to leave New York City?”
But the city’s 110th mayor, who took office in January, is assuming a more influential role in the national Democratic Party as a leader whose motto is “get stuff done” while communicating those accomplishments to voters. Case in point: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney (D-N.Y.), the head of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, just had Adams speak at the DCCC’s Chairman’s Issues Conference and Weekend in the city on Saturday.
“Mayors don’t have the luxury of talking about problems — they have to go fix them,” Maloney said in a statement to POLITICO. “Eric Adams is a guy who has taken action while a lot of politicians are still talking. He brings a valuable perspective to our party and shows how Democrats can tackle all the important challenges and issues without falling victim to the false choices.”
Last weekend’s DCCC conference was “very much about helping the Democrats get control of their messaging challenges,” according to one person who attended the event. That they would turn to Adams — a moderate Democrat and retired NYPD captain who was a registered Republican from 1995 through 2002 — to do that says as much about the party’s direction as any of the competitive primaries playing out this year.
Adams told the audience of 200, composed of DCCC supporters from across the country, that Democrats “must be better storytellers,” according to a copy of the remarks obtained by POLITICO. His role at the conference has not previously been reported.
The mayor urged the assembled party faithful to go on the offensive against the GOP on an issue they’ve been hammered on for years: public safety.
“Let’s highlight how the Republicans are failing on crime,” Adams said.
He suggested the following talking points to attack the GOP:
- “Let’s force them to explain why they oppose common sense gun laws but support the violence claiming innocent lives.”
- “Why murder rates are the highest in red states.”
- “Why they won’t stop the flow of illegal firearms or ban ghost guns, but they will allow police officers to be shot with them.”
- “Let’s force them to explain how they are for law and order and against funding law enforcement.”
He also reinforced a moderate path for the party in rebuke of the more progressive actors who’ve supported the movement to defund the police and attack corporations.
“If we do not have the courage to admit public safety needs police, prosperity needs the private sector, and this country needs big changes, then we will not have the credibility to lead,” Adams said.
He finished his speech by looking to the midterm elections.
“If you truly love this country, you love your neighbor and you fight for their freedoms, for their livelihood, for their families. That is who we are. That is why we fight. And that must be our message this fall.”
Adams’ national political ambitions don’t stop at speeches.
While his recent fundraising trips to Los Angeles, Chicago and Miami are ostensibly geared toward a second mayoral term, they’re really about building an infrastructure for a White House run, according to a political strategist close to the mayor’s orbit.
“He’s laying the groundwork,” the strategist, who spoke on condition of anonymity to freely discuss the mayor, said in an interview. “I don’t know if he’s actually going to do it for 2024 or 2028, but he’s meeting national donors and national people and it’s to build a donor network and an apparatus.”
And Adams’ confidantes are trying to figure out how to broaden his appeal.
“They have asked whether there are people in different large cities he should meet with if he’s traveling to those cities,” a local Democratic insider told POLITICO, also speaking on condition of anonymity.
The inquiry came shortly before Adams, who discovered he was dyslexic in college, joked Monday at a press conference about dyslexia screening in schools that, had he discovered his learning disability earlier in life, “We would not be saying just ‘Mr. Mayor,’ you’d probably be saying, ‘Mr. President.’”
Adams adviser Evan Thies said the mayor’s new national political role has nothing to do with a prospective White House bid. “He’s getting involved to help Democrats so that Democrats can help New York,” Thies said.
But Lis Smith, a Democratic strategist who helped take Pete Buttigieg from the mayor of a mid-sized Indiana town to the presidential campaign stage, said Adams would be a strong White House contender.
“Eric Adams is a Democrat who can appeal to voters across different racial, economic and educational demographics,” Smith said in an interview. “And that’s a voice we really need in the Democratic Party right now — especially when we are at risk of becoming a party that only appeals to people with college degrees.”