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Lhota On The Attack, De Blasio Plays It Safe In Final Debate

Public Advocate Maintains Huge Lead In Polls
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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — In their third and final debate, Democratic front-runner Bill de Blasio played it cool and safe, while Republican Joe Lhota, in dire need of a boost, was on the attack.

Lhota argued that de Blasio lacked leadership skills and his polices would lead to a spike in crime and cost the city jobs.

The former MTA head and deputy mayor under Rudy Giuliani took his most personal swipe at de Blasio when the public advocate’s proposal for universal pre-kindergarten was discussed. Some observers believe the plan would be in store for an uphill battle because it would require the state Legislature to pass tax hikes on the wealthy, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo might not support it in an election year in 2014.

When de Blasio was asked if he had a Plan B to pay for the plan, he fired back: “We intend to pass this. Anyone who’s a leader doesn’t start talking about Plan B’s, Plan C’s. You talk about your vision and how you’re going to get it done.”

Lhota said de Blasio’s response proved he lacked the leadership skills needed to be mayor.

“You know why he says something like that?” he said. “He has no management experience whatsoever. … Real leaders not only have a Plan B, but they have a Plan C. What you really need to know is what is your goal and how do you achieve it.”

Joe Lhota and Bill de Blasio debate on Oct. 30, 2013. (credit: Getty Images)

Joe Lhota and Bill de Blasio debate on Oct. 30, 2013. (credit: Getty Images)

Lhota stayed in attack mode when both candidates were asked what the city might look like in two years if their opponent were elected.

“I’ve tried to describe that in numerous advertisements,” Lhota answered. “I believe Bill’s proposals are quite naive, and they will actually turn us back to a time that we don’t want to go to. There will be an increase in crime.”

De Blasio argued that Lhota would do nothing to address income inequality or to repair the relationship between the police force and communities.

Supporters for Joe Lhota and Bill de Blasio gather outside the candidates' debate on Oct. 30, 2013. (credit: Holli Haerr/1010 WINS)

Supporters for Joe Lhota and Bill de Blasio gather outside the candidates’ debate on Oct. 30, 2013. (credit: Holli Haerr/1010 WINS)

“It would look very much the same as today,” he said. “A lot of the problems that we’re experiencing right now that have gone unaddressed by Mayor Bloomberg would go unaddressed by Mr. Lhota.”

The two also argued about subsidies for corporations, using a $127 million payment to keep Fresh Direct in Long Island City as the biggest example. De Blasio said he supports diverting such money to small businesses to use for loans. Lhota, meanwhile, said that striking a deal with Fresh Direct was the right move because the city would have lost 2,100 jobs to New Jersey otherwise.

De Blasio remained largely calm and collected on a night when playing it safe was likely his best strategy. On Wednesday, with six days to go before voters cast their ballots, a Quinnipiac poll showed the Democrat maintaining a commanding lead over Lhota, 65 percent to 26 percent

A day after the first anniversary of superstorm Sandy, the debate’s first questions touched on the storm and its aftermath. Each candidate insisted he was the right man to ensure the city was prepared for a natural disaster and could respond promptly should one happen during his term.

Lhota explained that when he served as the head of the MTA, the transit agency planned for all types of emergencies so they could restore transit services quickly.

“The city was not fully prepared for what happened a year ago,” Lhota said. “They were prepared for the evacuation, but not for the aftermath. The lack of preparation, the lack of planning, to me is something that needs to happen.”

De Blasio agreed more storm planning is needed on the city level, but that grassroots organization and faith-based groups — some of whom were first responders after Sandy — could also be trained on how to respond in the aftermath of a storm.

“We need to prepare people on the ground in advance,” the public advocate said.

When asked what flaws in storm response were exposed by Sandy, de Blasio said federal grant money needs to reach victims sooner. Lhota said the city’s Office of Emergency Management needs to be reinstated as the incident commander during a natural disaster.

While the debate addressed many issues that have been discussed at length in previous debates — stop-and-frisk, income inequality — one issue that cropped over the past week also was discussed: racial profiling at retail stores. Four people have come forward to allege they were stopped by police during or immediately after shopping at Barneys New York and Macy’s. Two men have filed lawsuits.

Both candidates agreed that those responsible should be punished but also said they are waiting for more information before determining whether the stores or the NYPD were to blame in the incidents.

“There’s no room for racial profiling in New York,” Lhota said. “If a store racially profiles, that store should be punished. That person who ordered it to happen should lose their job if not be also punished in some shape or form.”

“It’s absolutely unacceptable,” de Blasio agreed. “If the stores are directing this kind of activity, it has to stop immediately or there will obviously be consequences.”

The debate had been scheduled for Tuesday, but the candidates agreed to postpone it out of respect for the victims of superstorm Sandy on the one-year anniversary of the storm.

KEEPING PROMISES

De Blasio’s 39-point lead in the Quinnipiac poll is down slightly from his 44-point advantage in the university’s previous survey, released Oct. 21.

It is the first general election poll to have Lhota within 40 percentage points of de Blasio.

As WCBS 880′s Rich Lamb reported, when voters were asked if de Blasio can deliver on the big ideas he has touted on the campaign trail, they didn’t seem so sure. Forty-three percent said he cannot keep his promises; forty-two percent said he can.

“People look at what de Blasio’s promised, and they see that these are really big things,” said Maurice Carroll, director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “And … wouldn’t it be nice if he could straighten out income inequality? Wouldn’t it be great if he could deliver big on jobs? And it would be. And I’m sure he’s certainly going to try. But they’re looking at it, and say, ‘Hey, that’s a big order.’”

However, with the general election Tuesday, time is running out for Lhota, the former head of the MTA and a deputy mayor under Rudy Giuliani.

The new poll surveyed 728 likely voters has a margin of error of 3.6 percentage points.

DE BLASIO CHANGES TONE

Meanwhile, sources told CBS 2′s Marcia Kramer that de Blasio is toning down his message to the city’s corporate leaders, some of whom have been scared off by his agenda.

Among the chief concerns of business leaders is de Blasio’s plan to tax those earning more than $500,000 to pay for universal pre-K education.

De Blasio has not changed his liberal ideology, but he is reintroducing himself to the business community in a way that shows he knows the important role that it plays in creating jobs.

“His language is different,” a source told Kramer. “He doesn’t start by saying, ‘I’m a progressive,’ which shows a lack of sensitivity and turns people off.”

Sources said the strategy is working about half the time, but added some people are “still terrified.”

A possible solution to de Blasio’s tax-the-rich surcharge seemed to surface Wednesday. Some have suggested de Blasio could ask the state to give the city money from it’s so-called “millionares tax.”

A spokesman for de Blasio said the Democrat will “meet with leaders from across the city to get their ideas and hear their input.”

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