NEW YORK—Vying to represent the Democratic party in the general election in November, five of the leading candidates for mayor squared off in the first live broadcast television debate on Aug. 13.
For many New Yorkers, this debate, hosted by the League of Women Voters of the City of New York, the New York Daily News and television stations Univision 41 Noticias and WABC channel 7, was the first opportunity to get to know the candidates for more than a short news clip, or ad spot.
The candidates used the opportunity as an introduction to their campaigns, with their opening statements echoing messages from the campaign trail. City Council Speaker Christine Quinn stuck to her record, former Congressman Anthony Weiner apologized for his transgressions and moved on to his idea book, and Public Advocate Bill de Blasio stuck to his tale of two cities theme, which has gained enormous momentum over the last several weeks.
Limited to just 60-second answers, the candidates had little time to address the heavy issues asked by the moderators, including the stop-and-frisk police practice, retroactive pay for city workers, education, and the headline making scandals which have marred this year’s election.
Anthony Weiner, who resigned from Congress in 2011 for sending illicit Twitter pictures to women he met online, was asked how the public could trust him. Weiner apologized, but dodged the question, instead focusing on his ideas, a tactic he has used throughout his campaign.
When the other candidates were asked to weigh in, they all echoed the same message: we don’t want to talk about Anthony Weiner any more. Just weeks ago, when new allegations surfaced, every candidate called for his resignation, however they all folded when given the opportunity in a face to face.
Of all the candidates, Quinn took some of the heaviest shots from her opponents on the issue of term limits. Quinn was key to Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s getting to govern a third term by getting a bill passed in the Council to rewrite term limit laws in 2008. The move came without a vote from New Yorkers, who had previously voted against the measure.
Weiner said he has apologized for his transgressions, but has never heard Quinn apologizing to New Yorkers for giving Bloomberg a third term.
Quinn never directly defended the legislation, but rather cut back at Weiner, saying she didn’t deserve a lecture from him. “Neither me, nor anyone else on this stage needs to be lectured by Anthony Weiner,” Quinn said.
Quinn then went on the offensive and attacked everyone’s record, deflecting the focus from the third term issue.
The candidates didn’t have much time to offer viewers their deep views on hot-button issues, but they have set the tone for the sprint to the primary on Sept. 10.