In a blistering second debate last night, Bill de Blasio and Joe Lhota attacked each other on public safety, taxes and the legacies of the mayors they once served.
“When you go to vote on Nov. 5,” asked Republican and former subways chief Lhota in his closing statement, “do you want your vote to be safe or sorry?”
Democrat De Blasio, the outgoing public advocate, finessed his parting thoughts differently.
“We need a safe city and we need a fair city,” de Blasio said.
The measured tone of the parting statements were in stark contrast to the heated back-and-forth between the two men when asked directly about their positions on public safety.
City Council may have passed and overridden a mayoral veto legislation to create a police department inspector general and expand the city’s limits on how police can take race into account in arrests, but Lhota referred to the laws as dangerous bills that de Blasio supports and puts New Yorkers’ safety at risk.
De Blasio pushed back, accusing Lhota of using a misleading and divisive campaign ad associating de Blasio with scenes of flipped police cars, rioting and graffiti-ridden subway cars.
“It’s fear-mongering,” de Blasio said, comparing the ad to the infamous Willie Horton ad. “It’s race-baiting and fear-mongering. And you know it.”
“Stop, stop, stop,” Lhota said after arguing that his career has been defined by bringing people together. “There is nothing race-baiting about it.”
De Blasio, however, compared the tactic to those of former Mayor Rudy Giuliani, for whom Lhota served as a deputy mayor.
“I’m getting sick and tired of you impugning the integrity of Rudy Giuliani,” Lhota said.
“He did more to divide this city than any mayor in recent memory,” de Blasio said, shouting over Lhota.
“David Dinkins did more to divide this city in his period of time — the murders that happened, the actual race riots that happened — believe me, the reason he was thrown out was because he was divisive,” Lhota said.
Unlike last week’s first mayoral debate between de Blasio and Lhota, the Republican candidate spent very little time on the defense about his ties to the national GOP. De Blasio attempted once to goad Lhota into debating tea party politics, which resulted in one of the night’s more memorable comebacks.
“You talk so much about tea you remind me of the Mad Hatter,” Lhota said.
De Blasio played defense at times, too. Lhota questioned the Democrat’s plan for universal pre-Kindergarten again, this time relying on the words of a former boss of both men — Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who recently told the New York Daily News editorial board that de Blasio’s proposal to fund pre-K by raising taxes on New Yorkers who earn more than $500,000 a year would be a tough sell upstate.
Cuomo said that if de Blasio won the election “and if he comes to Albany, he can make his case and we will hear him out and let’s have a fulsome discussion, but this is a conversation we just had.”
For de Blasio, Cuomo’s words didn’t preclude the idea of raising taxes. While de Blasio interpreted that Cuomo was open to being convinced, Lhota said he heard something else altogether.
“I heard the words of Andrew Cuomo,” Lhota said. “I’m the one who most recently worked for him. He was crystal clear: this is dead on arrival.”
There were quite a few so-called moments in the debate where they did agree: both men applauded Mayor Bloomberg’s storm resiliency plan, including a new housing and commercial development called Seaport City. Both were unsure about the idea of pedestrian plazas.
Neither candidate was convinced about the green taxis that serve outer borough residents, instead praising the idea of allowing street hails outside of Manhattan. Both support getting rid of carriage rides using horses.
The two will make a third and final appearance next week for the last of the mayoral