NEW YORK — Mayor Eric Adams is eyeing Washington in 2024 — but not a run for president.
Nearly 18 months ago, after winning a crowded primary, Adams declared himself the future of the Democratic Party. And since he became mayor in January, Adams ratcheted up his role in national politics — hosting President Joe Biden to tout their shared vision on reducing crime, pushing for New York City to host the next Democratic National Convention and penning an op-ed advising Democrats on how to win back working-class voters.
In a sit-down interview at POLITICO’s offices in New York, Adams said he has offered his support to the president, outgoing House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and her presumed successor, Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, as attention turns to the 2024 elections.
“I said, 'Any way you guys need to use me, I’m willing to help,'” Adams said. “I want to make sure the party retains the White House.”
How much assistance they will want from the moderate Democrat remains to be seen.
Adams, a former police officer who was raised in a low-income household by a single mother, could prove a potent messenger for Democrats elsewhere in the country who struggle to talk convincingly about crime. And his broad support of policing and public safety dovetails with Biden's and Jeffries' stances.
But the mayor has yet to prove his brand of management can broadly drive down crime in New York City. And his playbook for doing so has proven divisive within New York Democratic circles.
The 2024 elections may offer the biggest test of Adams' political clout. The mayor was hardly a fixture in the recent midterms. He backed Gov. Kathy Hochul — who eked out a narrow win against her Republican challenger, Rep. Lee Zeldin — and endorsed Democrat Max Rose's unsuccessful challenge against Rep. Nicole Malliotakis on conservative Staten Island.
At the request of Rep. Pat Ryan — who was the only New York Democrat in a tight race to best their GOP opponent — Adams offered behind-the-scenes assistance, which has not been previously reported. Adams did not endorse Ryan, however.
“Mayor Adams offered advice on messaging and spoke to groups of Rep. Ryan’s constituents, supporting the congressman’s position on issues like public safety and support for working people,” Evan Thies, an adviser to the mayor, said in a statement. “He’s glad his help was able to make a difference in this important race, and believes Rep. Ryan will continue to be an extraordinary public servant.”
But Adams stayed out of several other contentious suburban races that were heavily predicated on New York City crime and were won by Republicans. New York Democrats’ inability to defend recent changes to state bail laws severely hamstrung their midterm performance, and some on the left blamed what they saw as Adams' Republican-adjacent talking points for helping drive voters into the GOP's arms.
A report in Bloomberg over the summer showed media mentions of crime began spiking around the time Adams launched his mayoral campaign in late 2020, far outpacing actual fluctuations in violence and theft.
Adams only backed off his calls to stiffen the bail laws in the final weeks of the election. He said he wasn’t asked to do so, and argues that his messaging has been consistent. In the days following the elections, however, he resumed his push to restore cash bail for some crimes.
National political figures are, nonetheless, inclined to seek Adams’ support.
Jeffries, who is running unopposed for House minority leader, has had a cool relationship with Adams over the years. But Jeffries' team said the New York City mayor would be welcome on the campaign trail.
“Congressman Jeffries has always been clear that Democrats are at our best when we are all on the field, and certainly Mayor Adams is no exception,” Jeffries’ political adviser Lupe Todd-Medina said in a statement.
At Pelosi's invitation, the mayor addressed two fundraisers for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee earlier this year. In October, the mayor spoke to around two dozen people gathered for dinner at the farm-to-table Manhattan restaurant Riverpark. And in May, he addressed around 200 DCCC supporters over breakfast at New York Palace, according to a mayoral adviser.
“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 told the breakfast crowd, according to a copy of his prepared remarks provided to POLITICO. “And we need to lead right now. Americans need to be reminded we are the place of the possible.”
Adams said Democrats should seize on red states' higher crime rates and opposition to gun control laws as weak points in the GOP policy platform during the next election cycle, which will be led by the presidential contest at the top of the ticket.
Should Biden commit to a reelection campaign, he will find a close political bedfellow in the mayor of New York City, who has referred to himself as “the Biden of Brooklyn” and hosted the commander-in-chief at NYPD headquarters in February.
“The president and I were talking about the same thing — dealing with crime,” Adams told POLITICO, referring to his joint appearance with the president. “Biden didn’t go down into the weeds about the conversation around bail. But he was extremely supportive of us around public safety.”
Despite having his eye on D.C., Adams said he had no immediate plans to run for national office.
"Would I run for national office? From where I’m standing right now, no," he said. "I want to be the mayor of New York City."