Verbal fisticuffs were at center stage Wednesday night when incumbent Bill de Blasio faced lawyer and former City Councilman Sal Albanese in their first Democratic mayoral debate.
“As expected, last night's debate did not change much in terms of electoral prospects,” said Joseph P. Viteritti, professor of public policy at Hunter College. “Albanese attacked de Blasio's record, but was unable to support his claims with relevant information. De Blasio undermined his challenger's credibility by questioning his command of facts.”
Like many New Yorkers, Viteritti —who will release “The Pragmatist: Bill de Blasio’s Quest to Save the Soul of New York” on Sept. 5, which centers on the mayor while also offering an in-depth history of his predecessors from Fiorello La Guardia to Michael Bloomberg — thinks this election is “not much of a contest” as de Blasio leads both the polls and fundraising.
But Albanese, who is running for the third time, believes the city is ready for a change and spent much of the debate attacking de Blasio, from his “pay-to-play” investigation and extensive travel during his first term, including a last-minute trip to the G-20 summit in Germany the day after an NYPD officer was fatally shot in the line of duty on July 5, as well as homelessness and real estate.
Regarding the hot-point issue of the beleaguered subway system, which saw hours of delays the morning of the debate, de Blasio cited his recently proposed millionaire’s tax. The tax would be a “modest increase” in state income tax for residents making $500,000 or more annually, he said earlier this month, and generate at least $700 million for infrastructure improvements and fair fares for low-income New Yorkers.
Albanese called the proposed tax “a ruse” and that “it’d be DOA” in Albany, to which de Blasio replied, “We’re going to have a Democratic state Senate, mark my words. We’re going to pass a millionaire’s tax that’s going to change everything.”
Albanese spoke briefly about using a tolling plan akin to Move NY that would “provide a billion and a half for transit.”
One topic the two candidates agreed on, however, was opposing President Donald Trump, of whom de Blasio has long been a vocal critic.
“We‘ve got to do everything we can to oppose Donald Trump’s policies that impact the LGBT community, immigrants — I’ll oppose him when I need to oppose him,” Albanese said.
And as for any rumors that de Blasio has aspirations for the White House in 2020, he nipped them in the bud.
“I am running for one thing one thing only: For reelection to be mayor of New York City. I will serve for four full years — and I am a firm believer in a two-term limit.”
If you missed the debate, you can watch it here. The next Democratic debate is scheduled for Sept. 6. The primary election is Sept. 12.