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Eric Adams Ducking Out Of CBS2's Leading Contenders Debate Thursday Night, The Last Before Early Voting Starts

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- There has been a stunning development in the mayor's race.

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams may be leading some recent polls, but he's ducking out of CBS2's leading contenders debate.

His opponents charge it's because he doesn't want to answer tough questions. However, Adams said there is a more important place he needs to be, CBS2's Marcia Kramer reported Tuesday.

It's a conundrum, the inexplicable riddle of Adams.

On the one hand, he complains about not getting enough face time during unwieldy debates with the eight main candidates, but on the other he suddenly balks at the opportunity to take part in a five-person leading contenders debate on CBS2.

His opponents were quick to criticize him.

"I am completely in the dark as to why a major candidate would not show up for a debate on CBS two days before early voting starts," candidate Andrew Yang said. "This is the latest sign in a troubling pattern of behavior for Eric Adams, where he can't answer questions about the corruption investigations he has faced. He owes the people of New York some answers."

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Ironically, Adams was in Queens talking about getting his message out when Kramer asked him about ducking the debate and the reasons why.

"Your opponents are charging that it's because you don't want to answer any tough questions," Kramer said.

"During the debate, there's only one round of tough questions that they call tough. I never find the questions tough. I'm extremely comfortable with answering," Adams said.

With stories suddenly appearing questioning his tacit support from Bill de Blasio, connection to NYCLASS, the animal rights group that helped de Blasio win in 2013, and other potentially embarrassing disclosures the other candidates could lob at him, Team Adams suddenly announced another engagement -- a vigil in Far Rockaway with the family of a 10-year-old gun violence victim who was killed over the weekend.

"We talked to your people a month ago about this time, the date and the time, and they said yes. Why did you change your mind?" Kramer asked.

"I just shared with you why, Marcia. Marcia, you're right. I wanted to do the debate. I enjoy debating the people on the stage. I wanted to, but the people of Rockaway, the people of the city, violence is suffocating our city," Adams said.

Watch Marcia Kramer's report --

And while gun violence is admittedly one of the top issues in the campaign, talking about it on the debate stage would allow Adams to get his message out to a wider audience.

Remember the last debate where he complained about not getting enough attention due to the eight-person field?

"It feels as though there is a four-person debate going on here and we are being ignored," Adams said.

"You know, maybe he thought it was going to be a little hot in there and didn't want to actually be put to the test, which we've all got to be put to to make sure that we're the right person for the job. Clearly, he's afraid of being on stage," candidate Kathryn Garcia said.

The strategy could be changing for the front-runner.

"We believe the polls. He's on top of the heap, and he has very little to win by giving his opponents more exposure and air times in contrast to him or by giving himself the opportunity to make perhaps a fatal gaffe that could take him down a peg," David Birdsell, of Baruch College, told CBS2's Dick Brennan.

Regardless, his opponents will be firing away.

Candidate Maya Wiley gave a preview Tuesday, attacking Adams about a just-released "Politico" report questioning, among other things, Adams' residency and his overnight hours kept at Borough Hall.

"I am looking forward to Thursday night's debate. I will be there. I will be back. I will be happy to talk to the people of the city of New York about just how we make sure this becomes a city where we can all raise a family," she said.

A spokesman for Scott Stringer said he would save his comments on the Adams no-show for the debate stage.

Adams responded to the "Politico" article Tuesday night, saying, "It's silly season when your opponents are staking out your office late at night so they can attack you for working too hard."

As for CBS2's debate, if Adams changes his mind before noon Wednesday, he is still welcome to join us Thursday night.

You can watch it this Thursday, June 10, at 7 p.m. on CBS2 and on CBSN New York.

CBS2's Dick Brennan contributed to this report.

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