NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – The top two Republican candidates for New York City mayor faced each other Sunday for the last time before the primary in an at-times testy debate that touched on topics including the NYPD’s policies and each other’s strengths and weaknesses.
Polls showed ex-MTA chairman Joe Lhota with a consistent lead over billionaire grocery store magnate John Catsimatidis, going into Sunday’s debate.
But Catsimatidis has blanketed the airwaves with ads, and a strong debate performance could impact what is expected to be a low voter-turnout on Tuesday.
In an exchange where Catsimatidis criticized Lhota for his decisions as deputy mayor in Rudy Giuliani’s mayoral administration, Lhota angrily ended with, “John, get your facts straight.”
At another point, where the candidates were asked whether they had questions for each other, Lhota stared straight ahead as Catsimatidis faced him to ask a question. Lhota declined to ask his opponent anything.
For his part, Catsimatidis made repeated reference to Lhota’s technical skills, contrasting it with what he called his own visionary capability.
“I’ve been a CEO for 44 years, and I am used to hiring people to perform technical tasks. I’ve hired hundreds of people with the qualifications of Joe,” he said. He added, “But you need a visionary, you need somebody that creates.”
Both candidates expressed support for NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly, as well as the department’s controversial stop-and-frisk policy. Both called for hiring more police officers.
In their previous debate, the two men frequently traded barbs and expressed exasperation during heated exchanges on police policy and public safety.
As WCBS 880’s Ginny Kosola reported, Lhota had breakfast with former mayor Rudy Giuliani on Sunday and the two were slated to make an appearance together after the debate.
In the debate in late August, longshot Republican candidate George McDonald, founder of the Doe Fund, took part. But he did not meet criteria to participate in Sunday’s debate.
Among Democrats, Bill de Blasio has surged in the polls. The general election is Nov. 5.
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