"Cities are hurting all across America and New York personifies that pain -- the inequalities, the gun violence, the lack of really looking after everyday blue-collar workers, I like to say," Adams told ABC "This Week" anchor George Stephanopoulos. "And we have failed for so many years. And we've allowed the fallout of the Trump administration to have an overreach in philosophy and not on-the-ground, real issues that are facing everyday New Yorkers."
"So is it -- is it fair to call you an anti-woke Democrat?" Stephanopoulos asked.
"No, I -- I've -- some of us never went to sleep. That's the problem," Adams responded.
Adams won the city's Democratic primary for mayor by a narrow margin in the city's first major election using ranked-choice voting. He will face Guardian Angels founder Curtis Sliwa, the Republican nominee, in the general election, but Adams, the current Brooklyn borough president, is widely considered the favorite to replace outgoing Mayor Bill de Blasio.
As a former police captain, combating the rise in violent crime while balancing racial justice has been a focal point of Adams' campaign.
"A 35-year record of fighting for reform, for public safety, a person who was arrested by police, assaulted by police, but also lost a child of a friend to gang -- to gang violence. And so I never went to sleep," he said. "And people who have finally realized that there are issues out here believe that they can carve the entire Democratic agenda."
Some progressive Democrats have criticized Adams' support for controversial policing tactics.
"You didn't back away from stop and frisk -- took some heat for that during the campaign. How do you balance preventing crime and police reform?" Stephanopoulos asked Adams.
"It's possible they go together, you can have public safety and reform, I know it," Adams replied.
"How should we judge you?" Stephanopoulos asked Adams. "Define success in a first term."
"Public safety," Adams answered. "That's the prerequisite to prosperity."
"Here's what we must do. Number one, my high income earners, they -- 65,000 New Yorkers pay 51% of our income taxes. You speak with them, the tax is not the problem. Public safety is the problem. We're going to let them know that this city is going to be safe," he said. "If we don't have a safe subway system, no one is going to fill these office buildings, and it is not going to feed our economy that we're looking for."
"We want to be a safe city, and we want to be ready to do business again," he added. "We're going to live up to our name. This is an Empire State. We want to build empires."