For decades, the Columbus Day Parade in New York City has been a must-stop destination for politicians and aspiring politicians — so much so that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg’s decision to skip it in 2002 drove headlines for days.
This year’s gathering, even factoring in the growing controversy around the holiday, appeared to be no different: Mayor Bill de Blasio showed up and sustained some taunts. Gov. Kathy Hochul and some would-be primary rivals were in attendance. Curtis Sliwa, the long-shot Republican mayoral contender, also made his way along the Manhattan route.
But Eric Adams, the Democratic nominee for mayor of New York City and the Brooklyn borough president, did not attend the parade on Monday. His whereabouts was unclear: Mr. Adams did not release any kind of public schedule that day.
Indeed, Mr. Adams, who secured the Democratic mayoral nomination in July and is virtually certain to win next month’s general election, has been a relatively rare presence on the campaign trail in recent weeks.
To his allies, Mr. Adams’s scant public schedule suggests an above-the-fray posture that has allowed him to focus on fund-raising, preparing to govern and cementing vital relationships he will need in office. But it also amounts to a cautious approach that lowers the risk of an impolitic remark, and limits media scrutiny of the man on track to assume one of the most powerful positions in the country.
As of Tuesday — three weeks from Election Day — Mr. Adams’s campaign had released no more than five public schedules in October, with a few more government-related advisories issued by his borough president’s office. He announced no campaign events over the weekend; the only advertised stop was a visit to the Federation of Italian-American Organizations of Brooklyn, in his government capacity.
By contrast, a review of most of Mr. de Blasio’s public campaign schedules from early October 2013 — during the last open-seat mayoral race in New York — shows that while he was hardly barnstorming the five boroughs each day, he released a near-daily public schedule of events as he rolled out endorsements, marched in parades and gave speeches.
“Regardless of the likely outcome, it never hurts to ask voters for their support, run up your numbers and head to City Hall claiming a strong mandate,” said Monica Klein, a political strategist who has worked on many Democratic campaigns, including for Mr. de Blasio. “You don’t want to win by default, even if you’re running against a guy with 16 cats.”
Mr. Adams and his team strongly reject any suggestion that he is pursuing anything less than a frenetic schedule — even if they do not always broadcast his events. Indeed, Mr. Adams, long a highly visible fixture in his home borough of Brooklyn, has frequently shown up at community and political gatherings across the city in appearances that his campaign did not advertise.
He recently claimed in an interview with NY1 that he is participating in 13 events a day and canvassing until 1 a.m. Asked for an accounting of Mr. Adams’s schedule in recent weeks, a campaign spokesman, Evan Thies, instead offered a list of 21 public events — a mix of government business and campaign activities — that he said Mr. Adams had attended since Labor Day. The list, the campaign said, did not include events Mr. Adams has attended with volunteers and voters, or extensive media interviews.
Asked how Mr. Adams spent his day Monday, Mr. Thies said he was organizing with volunteers.
“Eric is working hard from early in the morning until very late at night,” Mr. Thies said, meeting voters and volunteers “and holding events to ensure the working people who support him win on Election Day.”
“He is also spending significant time preparing to be mayor should he be successful on Nov. 2, meeting with government, nonprofit and business leaders to ensure he is ready to lead New York,” Mr. Thies added.
But while public officials and candidates seeking office typically distribute their daily schedules in media advisories, Mr. Adams’s campaign or government office did not widely publicize a notable number of the events Mr. Thies referenced.
The opaque nature of how Mr. Adams spends his time makes it difficult to gauge the full extent of his engagement with the mayoral race — but he does not appear to have been hitting the trail each day in the final month of the contest.
It also raises the question of how transparent Mr. Adams will be about his activities if he becomes mayor. (Mr. Adams has already faced other questions about details of his schedule: His team declined to say where he was vacationing this summer, and he has confronted significant scrutiny over his residency.)
Mr. Thies did not directly respond to a question about the kinds of commitments Mr. Adams was prepared to make regarding the public schedules he will release should he win.
“We do not always advise campaign events and appearances because hosts and participants would prefer we do not, and often campaign strategy is discussed,” Mr. Thies said of the current race. “But Eric believes it is very important that members of the media have regular access to him to ask questions on behalf of the public, which is why he holds frequent press conferences and daily interviews with individual reporters.”
Mr. Adams was on the campaign trail Tuesday, visiting an urban farm to discuss how to provide underserved New Yorkers with better access to nutritious food and preventive health care. He has also highlighted policy proposals around issues including public safety, boosting the economy and housing, and his team and other allies stress that he is deeply focused on the transition.
“I know for a fact he is working to form his administration, putting all the pieces together to hit the ground running,” said State Senator John C. Liu, who attended a rally for Mr. Adams last week.
There are signs that Mr. Adams is beginning to accelerate his public schedule, announcing appearances on both Tuesday and Wednesday.. He is also using his significant war chest to start broadcasting campaign advertisements.
The heavily Democratic tilt of New York City — it is even more Democratic now than when Mr. de Blasio first ran for mayor — means that virtually no political expert in the city sees the race as competitive, and many Democrats are sanguine about Mr. Adams’s apparent public campaign style.
In part, that is because many see Mr. Sliwa as a far less credible opponent than Joseph J. Lhota, Mr. de Blasio’s 2013 Republican rival who had chaired the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, and Mr. de Blasio still won that race by nearly 50 percentage points.
“Curtis Sliwa isn’t a serious human,” said Bill Hyers, who was Mr. de Blasio’s campaign manager in 2013. “It’s not really a race anymore. It’s all about getting ready to transition to governance.”
Fernando Ferrer, the 2005 Democratic nominee, added of Mr. Adams, “He’s doing exactly what he should be doing right now: He is tying his coalition together and solidifying it, he’s finished raising money, he’s keeping support in place. Focus on a campaign with Curtis Sliwa of all people? Excuse me.”
There will be opportunities for Mr. Adams to do so: Two general election debates are scheduled, the first set for Oct. 20, three days before the start of early voting.
Certainly, there have already been the occasional clashes between the candidates: Mr. Adams has called Mr. Sliwa, who has admitted to fabricating incidents of fighting crime, a “racist” who is engaged in “antics”; Mr. Sliwa hectors Mr. Adams often.
In a brief phone call, Mr. Sliwa, who has issued a public events schedule almost every day this month, described Mr. Adams as “M.I.A., he’s invisible.”
“It’s a major difference from when he was out during the primaries,” he added.
Mr. Sliwa also defended his own electoral prospects.
“Normally they think Republicans are like, ‘Oh, they’re going to cater to Wall Street, Fortune 500, hedge fund monsters,’” Mr. Sliwa said, suggesting he was a different kind of Republican. “It’s going to be a surprise to all of them, because I have support in places where generally Republicans don’t have support.”
In some ways, Mr. Adams’s approach is not so different from the campaign conducted by President Biden in the last weeks of the presidential contest as the pandemic raged last fall.
“It’s like the Rose Garden strategy the president would have, it’s the same approach,” said Mr. Lhota, who is now a Democrat. “Somebody that has a substantial lead doesn’t need to do as many events, doesn’t need to get their name out as frequently.”
Michael M. Grynbaum, Luis Ferré-Sadurní, Dana Rubinstein and Tracey Tully contributed reporting.