Standing in the middle of his opponents on the debate stage, mayoral contender Bill de Blasio fended off attacks from all sides Tuesday night just hours after a new poll revealed that he could potentially have enough support to avoid a runoff election.
His rivals accused him of flip-flopping on issues such as extending term limits, and criticized his plan to raise taxes on the wealthy to expand prekindergarten and after-school programs, saying it would never be approved in Albany.
"We'll have support on the ground from the people, and that's what matters," de Blasio said.
"We can't have pie-in-the-sky promises for New York parents when they're desperate for real change," City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said.
Quinn, once a frontrunner in the race, also slammed the public advocate over reports that he accepted campaign donations from property owners who appeared on his "Worst Landlords Watch" list.
"It's Bill talking out of both sides of his mouth, making a list that's supposed to help tenants but really it ended up becoming a campaign fundraising list for the public advocate," she said.
De Blasio defended his bad landlords list, saying it succeeded in getting the property owners to fix their buildings.
Even Anthony Weiner defended de Blasio — at least on the point about the landlords.
"No one fought harder to stand up to slumlords than Bill has, I mean, that's not the good issue to hit him on," he said. "Term limits, yes. He's flip-flopped on that. His policies aren't as good as mine. But accusing him of being a defender of slumlords is pretty ridiculous."
Former Comptroller Bill Thompson accused de Blasio of being inconsistent on issues and doing what's "politically expedient."
"Why should the people of the city of New York believe you, Bill, given your history, given the fact that that history has been one of doing things that are in your self-interest?" Thompson said.
Still, de Blasio did not back down and promised that he could offer New Yorkers a change from the Bloomberg administration.
"This is a city that has always believed in big, bold ideas," he said. "The notion that we can't go to Albany and get what we deserve, that we can't convince the Legislature that we need the right to tax people that make a half million or more, that's old thinking. That's not the thinking that's going to move us forward."
According to the polls, this mayoral race has seen three frontrunners, with de Blasio surging ahead in the most recent polls. In the Quinnipiac poll released on Tuesday, he had 43 percent of support, followed by Thompson with 20 percent, Quinn with 18 percent, Weiner with 7 percent and City Comptroller John Liu with 4 percent.
Yesterday's mayoral debate was the final showdown for the Democratic candidates ahead of the primary election next Tuesday.