Lhota comes out swinging in second mayoral debate
Less than twenty minutes into the second debate of the general election, the mayoral candidates were exchanging defensive, angry words at such a volume that the moderator was prompted to call a time out.
Moderator Maurice DuBois asked the candidates what happened to their “kumbaya moment” just ten minutes prior, when they found common ground over their mutual appreciation for Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Seaport City plan.
But it seemed the goodwill began and ended there, and before long, accusations by de Blasio, characterizing Lhota’s recent attack ad against him as “race-baiting,” had Lhota actually yelling at his opponent.
Lhota insisted there was “nothing divisive about that ad whatsoever,” and explained the reason he thinks de Blasio is weak on crime is because of his support of the City Council’s Community Safety Act bills, which established an Inspector General over the NYPD and instituted anti-profiling protections beyond race-based profiling.
De Blasio objected to Lhota’s characterization of the Council bills, dismissively saying, “There’s a number of inaccuracies in what Mr. Lhota said. He obviously doesn’t understand the legislation.”
The Democratic candidate argued that an inspector general is a “smart checks and balance” measure.
De Blasio frequently brought up the Lhota ad as an example of attempts at “fear-mongering,” while Lhota seemed to ease off of his police- and safety-centered attacks on the public advocate and refocus, if briefly, on de Blasio’s oft-criticized proposed tax hike.
The cornerstone of the Democratic candidate’s platform since day one has been a tax on New Yorkers earning half a million dollars or more to fund full-day universal pre-kindergarten and after school programming for all middle schoolers over the span of five years.
De Blasio noted that his proposed hike would up the tax rate from 3.9 to 4.4 percent, “less than the tax rate Mike Bloomberg set” for high owners ten years ago. He argued that “one of the things business leaders care most about” is education.
“That’s going to make our workforce stronger in the future,” he said. “I would argue it’s in the interest of all.”
Lhota repeatedly warned middle class New Yorkers to keep an eye on their wallets, saying “no one has ever been able to just tax the rich.”
Both candidates also spent a significant amount of time attacking each other’s former bosses and defending their own — former Mayor David Dinkins for de Blasio, and former Mayor Rudy Giuliani for Lhota.
While the Republican candidate steadfastly defended Giuliani, crediting him with bringing in a “renaissance” in the city, Lhota emphatically insisted that he is the truly bipartisan candidate, having worked for both Giuliani and Cuomo.
Though he didn’t seem to land any significant jabs, Lhota did appear to be a stronger candidate in the second debate, staying energized and even getting in a few quips.
“You talk about tea so much you remind me of the Mad Hatter,” Lhota said when de Blasio tried to bring up his courting of the Staten Island Tea Party.
De Blasio: Maintained that the vast majority of children in New York attend regular public schools — like his own children — but that he would work with charter schools without favoring them.
Lhota: Accused de Blasio of trying to “annihilate” charter schools by charging rent or forcing co-locations.
NYPD’s Muslim surveillance
De Blasio: The surveillance program is wrong because it isn’t based on specific leads — targets the Muslim community as a whole.
Lhota: The surveillance program is fine because it’s in line with the Handschu guidelines. Lhota said the Handschu guidelines allow the police to follow targets into supermarkets and mosques.
Tax-funded universal pre-K
De Blasio: When asked if his tax hike really has a chance of clearing Albany, de Blasio said Gov. Andrw Cuomo “said he would keep an open mind.” He quickly continued to reiterate what his plan is, and said, “We have it do it; it’s strategically crucial.” De Blasio’s strategy of funding full-day universal pre-K and afterschool programs for all middle schoolers relies on a tax increase on New Yorkers earning half a million or more.
Lhota: “If you’re in the middle class, hold on to your wallet, because no one has ever been able to just tax the rich.”
De Blasio: Supporting Bloomberg’s push for mayoral control of the city’s education system.
Lhota: Calling Port Authority police officers “mall cops.”
Charging admission for the 9/11 Museum
De Blasio: Would negotiate a lower price.
Lhota: Should be free and open to all, like the Smithsonian and other federal museums.
Proudest moment in life (that doesn’t involve family)
De Blasio: Graduating from NYU.
Lhota: Cutting the ribbon to close Fresh Kills landfill.
In the lightning round, both candidates affirmed that they do not own any guns. But attention was brought to a Staten Island Advance article on Lhota’s relationship with the local Tea Party, which referred to him as a gun owner.
Lhota spokesperson Jessica Proud confirmed via email that Lhota does not own a gun, and said she asked the Advance to correct the story after it ran.
De Blasio: “We need a safe city and a fair city.”
Lhota: “We are one mayor away from unsafe streets, unsafe schools and unsafe fiscal policy… Do you want your vote to be safe… or sorry?”
Follow Danielle Tcholakian on Twitter @danielleiat