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Fiscal Issues Front And Center In First De Blasio-Lhota Debate

Mayoral Debate Held Exactly 3 Weeks Before Nov. 5 General Election
NYC mayoral candidates Bill de Blasio and Joe Lhota (credit: Getty Images)

NYC mayoral candidates Bill de Blasio and Joe Lhota (credit: Getty Images)

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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Mayoral hoepfuls Bill de Blasio and Joe Lhota spent much of their first debate Tuesday night discussing the city’s fiscal issues — income equality, affordable housing, tax subsidies and rent for charter schools.

There were also some heated moments when the candidates took exception to comments made about them. For example, de Blasio, the race’s Democratic front-runner, accused Lhota of distorting his stands on some issues.

“I’d like my opponent to at least pay attention to the things I’ve said and accurately portray them,” de Blasio said.

Meanwhile, Lhota seemed annoyed that de Blasio, the city’s public advocate, consistently tried to paint him as being in line with national Republicans and for seeking support from the tea party.

“Don’t lump me in with people who I’m constantly in disagreement with,” said the former MTA head. ” … Where I don’t agree with the national Republican Party is long and hard. I am pro-choice; they are not. I am pro-gay rights as well as marriage equality; they are not. I have been outspoken about these issues over and over again.”

The issue of income inequality was front and center in the debate.

Lhota admitted that the earning gap is an “extreme problem,” but he also attacked de Blasio for his signature “tale of two cities” campaign message.

“Where I disagree with my opponent is he talks about a tale of two cities, where you basically divide the city into class warfare, where it’s rich vs. poor, black vs. white, old vs. young,” Lhota said. “What we need to do is have a tale of one city, where we all work together.”

De Blasio argued the he’s simply acknowledging the problem, saying 46 percent of the city is living at or near the poverty line and that the middle class is disappearing.

“As Bill Clinton said, it’s not class warfare; it’s mathematics to acknowledge these problems and challenges in our society, so we actually can move forward with creating one New York,” he said.

Lhota and de Blasio also butted heads on whether to charge charter schools rent.

De Blasio said he would only charge rent to those schools that had millions of dollars in resources.

“Why shouldn’t they pay some rent to help us out so we can run the best school system possible?” he said.

Lhota fired back: “The reason why charter schools shouldn’t pay rent is because they are public schools, and we don’t charge our public schools rent.”

One area where de Blasio and Lhota drew an especially stark contrast was corporate subsidies. Lhota blasted de Blasio for saying he would not have given additional tax breaks to prevent grocery delivery company Fresh Direct — and its 2,000 jobs — from moving to New Jersey.

“Quite honestly, Bill, I don’t understand how you can sit there and talk about what you’re going to do when you were given a chance to actually save jobs in New York, and you said, ‘No’ you wouldn’t have done it,” Lhota said.

De Blasio shot back: “My opponent never met a corporate subsidy he didn’t like.”

The candidates, however, seemed to be largely in agreement that the city needs to provide more affordable housing. De Blasio said he plans to build 200,000 additional units of affordable housing over 10 years, while Lhota called for 150,000 apartments over four years.

Lhota entered the debate hoping it might help reverse the fortunes of his struggling campaign heading into the Nov. 5 general election. Polls show de Blasio with a lead hovering around 50 percentage points.

CBS 2 will host a debate between the two candidates Oct. 22 at 7 p.m. <a href=”http://newyork.cbslocal.com/category/elections/”>Click here for complete election coverage</a>.

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(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)