NEW YORK—Just two weeks prior to the Nov. 5 election, the two candidates for mayor met for their second debate of the campaign on Oct. 22. In a sharp contrast to last week, which featured a wonky debate of fiscal policy, this debate was lively and spirited, with several heated exchanges.
Republican Joe Lhota, who spent much of last week’s debate on the defensive for his ties to the Republican Party, was far more aggressive. He stood up for himself, didn’t mumble through answers, and attacked front-running Democratic rival Bill de Blasio.
Lhota’s zingy one-liners provided comedic fodder for those in attendance, who found themselves laughing through much of the latter half of the debate.
When asked about the change in pace after the debate, Lhota said he felt much more comfortable on stage, allowing the “real Joe Lhota” to show up.
The debate started out with a focus on crime, an issue that recent polls have shown to be critical for New Yorkers. It is also an issue where the candidates have major policy differences.
De Blasio, whose candidacy took off this summer largely due to his strong stance on curbing the abuse of the police practice of stop and frisk, hammered Lhota for wanting to keep the controversial practice.
Lhota has repeatedly said he would keep stop and frisk, but ensure it is done legally, claiming the practice has helped drive crime down during the Bloomberg administration.
De Blasio attacked Lhota for a controversial ad, claiming, if elected, de Blasio would return New York City to the crime-ridden days of the ’70s and ’80s.
“Mr. Lhota should be ashamed of an ad that tries to divide us,” de Blasio said. Lhota had to modify the ad after a photographer claimed the images were used without his permission. The ad continues to run.
The debate moderator asked de Blasio to offer a plan B to his pre-kindergarten plan, which includes raising taxes on those making over $500,000.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo told the Daily News he would look the plan over, but he has also made lowering, not raising taxes, a focal point for 2014, which is an election year for state officials.
The Democrat has repeatedly declined to offer a plan B, saying his plan will pass. When pressed after the debate if waiting until 2015 would be an option, he said, “Everyone seems to want me to bargain against myself and I just won’t do it.”
Despite the chippy behavior between the two candidates, they did find some common ground.
On Superstorm Sandy, both candidates believe the idea of Seaport City, an extension at the south tip of Lower Manhattan, would be a good idea. De Blasio said the idea was ambitious, but something he felt should be looked at. Lhota was much more committed, saying it was the only option from Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s resiliency plan that would pay for itself.
It was the first time Sandy was brought up in a mayoral debate since the primary. While Bloomberg has set a plan in motion, it will be up to the next mayor to figure out how to implement it.
Both agreed the outer borough taxi plan, which requires cabs to be painted green to street hail, should be changed. Both said the black livery cabs should be allowed to street hail.
“The mayor’s plan will pit the pieces against each other,” de Blasio said, arguing street hail by livery cabs would be a better solution for both customer and industry.
De Blasio continues to hold on to a substantial lead in the polls. Of the 973 likely voters surveyed in an Oct. 21 Quinnipiac University poll, de Blasio received 68 percent of the vote, and Lhota received 24 percent. The polls have remained largely unchanged since the primary.
Independent candidate Adolfo Carrion Jr. did not participate in the debate. Carrion, who is not participating in the city’s campaign finance system, did not meet the requirements for candidates.
Campaign Finance Board rules require that a candidate poll at least 5 percent in a poll that includes all candidates, and raise $50,000. Carrion received 2 percent in the only poll to include all the candidates, a Marist poll released Oct. 11.
Next Tuesday, Oct. 29, will be the final debate between the two candidates before Election Day Nov. 5.