Tuesday night’s first mayoral debate in the general election had its share of jabs, confrontations and attempts at corruption exposure. The audience even became a highlight of the evening, as people at El Museo del Barrio who watched the debate didn’t hold back upon hearing something they didn’t like.
Democratic mayoral candidate Comptroller William Thompson and Republican candidate Mayor Michael Bloomberg discussed how they would make the city better, but in between, they showed no mercy, throwing verbal punches towards one another about term limits, the Board of Education and pay-for-play politics.
The one-hour debate televised on NY1 was moderated by political anchor Dominic Carter. An all-male panel of political news veterans, including Brian Lehrer of WNYC, Adam Lisberg of the Daily News, and Juan Benitez and Michael Scotto from NY1, questioned the candidates.
During the opening statements, Thompson rebutted Bloomberg’s statement about improving the schools and accused the two-term mayor of playing by a different set of rules. He also highlighted Bloomberg’s “obscene” spending of “$200 million” on his campaign to distort Thompson’s character.
“Can the richest man in New York City play by another set of rules?” Thompson asked. “I want to be a mayor for all New Yorkers.”
Bloomberg attempted to bring down Thompson when it came to the topic of the city’s public education, saying that it was a failed system under Thompson’s control. One of the most discussed quotes of the evening by Bloomberg caused a stir among the audience after Thompson explained that Bloomberg didn’t care about the schools while Thompson was in politics.
“You know, you don’t get a medal for rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, and that’s exactly what he did,” Bloomberg said.
Thompson struck back by saying that mayoral control wouldn’t have happened had he not been involved in the public school system in the way he had been when he was at the Board of Education.
Term limits was also a key issued discussed during the debate with Thompson firing at Bloomberg for extending them. Bloomberg explained that he was encouraged by friends and other New Yorkers to run in order to help the city during the financial crisis and that voters do have a choice.
“The voters get to decide who has the best record,” Bloomberg said. “They’ve got to look at how we conducted ourselves in the past. In the end, that’s they key here, two candidates [and] who’s going to lead the city.”
A question asked by one panelist about stop-and-frisks by the NYPD began a discussion on overall community-police relations in the city. Thompson said that people in the city feel that they are being singled out and the numbers support that change should be made.
He said. “What stop-and-frisk is being misused for now is to stop almost everybody. I see almost 90 percent of those who are stopped and frisked have done nothing wrong. Yet 90 percent of those people are African-American and Latino.”
The debate was not without controversy from the lively audience. As Bloomberg began to utter his opening statement, Green Party candidate the Rev. Billy Talen shouted at the mayor questioning what he was doing after he extended term limits. He was escorted out by NYPD officers.
Boos came over the crowd as Bloomberg came on the stage, along with many people shouting out “arrogant” after the mayor made statements. The reaction was particularly negative when Bloomberg answered a question about diversity in his administration in Spanish.
After the debate, Thompson made his way over to East Harlem’s Chimney Lounge, where a watch party was being held. Backed by State Sen. Bill Perkins and Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito, Thompson assured his supporters that he defeated his opponent.
“Over the next three weeks, it will be determined who is mayor of the city of New York,” he said. “New York is not for sale. It’s crunch time. We have the power in our hands, not in [Bloomberg’s] pocketbook!”
While Bloomberg never once looked at Thompson during the debate, the comptroller seemed comfortable and confident as he declared, “Eight is enough when you violate the will of the people and overturn term limits.”
Bloomberg and Thompson will face off in another debate on October 27.