Joe Lhota Issues Debate Challenge to Bill de Blasio
NEW YORK—This summer featured a highly saturated schedule of mayoral forums, with what seemed like nearly every advocacy group and organization hosting an event, sometimes more than one per day. It gave the press ample opportunity to write about the candidates, and New Yorkers across the city to see the candidates in a live debate.
There was only one problem: most of the debates featured the heavily crowded Democratic field.
With just under seven weeks before the general election, Republican challenger Joe Lhota is finding the lack of face-time and column inches hurting his poll numbers, but he has a solution: more debates.
On Thursday afternoon, Lhota issued a challenge to his Democratic counterpart Bill de Blasio, suggesting the duo participate in at least one debate per week in all five boroughs. The new debates would be in addition to the two debates already on the schedule for Oct. 22 and Oct. 29.
“I do believe the people of the City of New York need to have a vigorous debate of the mayoral candidates,” Lhota said from the steps of City Hall on Thursday. “Not only are there citywide issues that need to be talked about in each one of the boroughs, but specific issues that need to be covered.”
Responding while at a campaign stop in the Bronx, de Blasio was leery of committing to any new debates, saying he wanted the two campaign teams to talk first.
“We are going to figure out the best way to go about debates, most importantly the televised debate program where obviously most people will have an opportunity to see the contrast between the candidates,” de Blasio said.
“We will work it out with the Lhota campaign, whatever the model is. It is not my place to say today what it will be.”
Lhota said he wants voters to “see the contrast between the two of us” in approach and philosophy. Specifically he wants voters to hear his education plan, how he will create jobs, and his views on public safety—an issue Lhota said he “differs tremendously” on with de Blasio.
Lhota said the two required debates would not be enough time, saying the format did not allow enough time for talk.
“They are limited. At these debates you are only allowed to talk for a minute about substantive issues,” Lhota said. “It really doesn’t go far enough.”
He said he would be up to any debate format—so long as he got to stand. “I find sitting to be too comfortable and not appropriate,” Lhota said.
A representative with the Campaign Finance Board, which is charged with administering the mandatory debate program, said the media sponsors for the debates submit the format. For the CFB sponsored, as well as the mayoral forums, 60-, 30-, or 15-second answers have been standard.
Lhota’s throwdown comes on the heels of yet another disappointing showing in the polls for the Republican candidate. The Quinnipiac University polls, which surveyed 891 likely voters, show de Blasio up 66 percent to Lhota’s 25 percent. Adolfo Carrion Jr. took in 2 percent, with 6 percent undecided.