NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — As polls show Bill de Blasio pulling away from the Democratic pack in the race for mayor, his party rivals zeroed in on attacking him during their final debate Tuesday night.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and former city Comptroller Bill Thompson, who appear to be fighting for the right to meet de Blasio in a runoff — if there is a runoff — took the public advocate to task for flip-flopping on issues such as term limits, for what Quinn called “pie-in-the-sky” promises about education and for accepting campaign donations from building owners who appeared on a slumlord watch list.
“It’s Bill talking out of both sides of his mouth,” Quinn said. “Making a list that’s supposed to help tenants, but really it ended up becoming a campaign fundraising list.”
De Blasio said the allegation was “absolutely inaccurate” and insisted the list only accomplished good.
“Talk to the tenants in those 300 buildings about what life was like before we used our watch list to help them get the changes they need,” he said. “I’m proud of what we did.”
De Blasio even found an unlikely defender in Anthony Weiner.
“Let me just say this, and I’m not voting for Bill de Blasio; I’m voting for me,” Weiner said. “No one’s fought harder to stand up to slumlords than Bill has. That’s not a good issue to hit him on.”
When he wasn’t defending himself from attacks, de Blasio was harping on his position that the city’s rich need to be taxed to provide money for his proposed universal pre-kindergarten and expanded after-school programs. He said criticism by his opponents that his ideas could not be accomplished because of resistance in Albany proves that they are not the type of leader the city needs.
“This is a city that has always believed in big, bold ideas (and) big, bold changes,” he said.
City Comptroller John Liu argued that de Blasio’s tax-the-rich plan was hypocritical.
“The public advocate wants to tax the millionaires, but meanwhile for years, he defended Wall Street against higher taxes,” Liu said.
De Blasio, however, wasn’t the only candidate being attacked. Quinn, for example, had to defend herself over a “slush-fund” scandal, in which a federal probe was launched after allegations emerged in 2008 that the City Council had allocated millions of dollars to fictitious groups.
“As soon as we became aware that within member items there was long, long standing — about a decade — practice, we put an end to it,” she said.
Quinn also came under fire Tuesday for allowing Mayor Michael Bloomberg and members of the City Council — herself included — to serve third terms despite the fact that voters had approved limiting terms to two.
The final face-off came one week before the Democratic primary. A Quinnipiac University poll released Tuesday shows de Blasio is the choice of 43 percent of likely Democratic voters, surging past the 40 percent mark, which would allow him to avoid a runoff. If no one crosses that threshold, the top two finishers advance to a runoff three weeks later. Thompson has support from 20 percent of Democratic voters, while Quinn has 18 percent, the poll says.
The NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy was also a hot topic Tuesday night, although the leading contenders agreed it was time to scrap the practice. A judge struck down the policy last month, but the Bloomberg administration is appealing.
“We need to eliminate quotas,” Thompson said. “We need to hold people accountable. And I’ve also recommended as individuals are stopped — if they are stopped — that there has to be an explanation given to them why they were stopped, in writing.”
“Give precinct commanders the ability to make their own choices, and those stops are going to come down only to those that are constitutional and valid,” de Blasio said.
Added Quinn, who has filed papers against the city’s push to continue stop-and-frisk: “When I’m mayor, unconstitutional stops and frisks will come to an end. We’re going to do that through use of the monitoring, the inspector general that we just passed in the City Council and overrode the veto on.”
One of the more interesting questions was whether the candidates would seek a second term if crime went up under their watch as mayor. Liu, Weiner and Thompson said they would not run again. De Blasio said the pledge made no sense. Quinn refused to answer, insisting that crime would go down if she were mayor.
Weiner, the former congressman who was once considered a front-runner in the race, has faded from the spotlight. However, he insisted that, despite his numerous sexting scandals, he could be taken seriously as mayor when dealing with Albany.
“I’m an imperfect messenger for the best ideas in this campaign,” he said.
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