17 October 2013, 17:01

NYC mayoral candidates meet in first debate

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With less than a month to go until the New York City mayoral elections, things are heating up between Democratic front runner Bill de Blasio and Republican hopeful Joe Lhota.

The two met last night during the first of three televised debates where they discussed issues ranging from policing and the policy of ‘stop-and-frisk,’ to taxes and affordable housing. With de Blasio winning by as many as 50 points according to the latest polls, Lhota had no choice but to go on the offensive, but de Blasio seemed ready for just about every punch thrown at him. Our New York correspondent Vasili Sushko reports.
A lot can happen in three weeks, which is about the time that is left until the New York City mayoral elections. Then again, with a lead as big as Democratic hopeful Bill de Blasio’s, it seems that Republican Joe Lhota’s chances of dethroning Michael Bloomberg are slim. During the first televised mayoral debate in New York City on Tuesday, Lhota did his best to show he can compete in this race.

“What’s really important to understand is that I’ve been there before and I've done it. I can be mayor on day one without any training, without any learning curve whatsoever.” – Joe Lhota, during televised debate on WABC

Lhota, who served as the former head of the Metropolitan Transit Authority, the nation’s largest public transportation network, seemed composed and quick in his attacks. But it was Lhota’s own history of working for former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani that took the brunt of the pressure from de Blasio, who bashed Lhota’s Republican ties.

“At the tea party gathering in Staten Island, Mr. Lhota told them ‘There’s many areas where we agree philosophically,’ those are his words. You can’t have it both ways. I think when the republican primary was going on, he was a conservative Republican, now he’s trying to appeal to the mainstream. Mr. Lhota was the top aide to Rudolf Giuliani, the most divisive administration we’ve seen in decades.” – Bill de Blasio, during televised debate on WABC

Lhota quickly distanced himself from the national Republican Party by stating his differences.

“Look, one thing that’s different about me and Rudy Guliani, I go to every community in the City of New York, there will not be one community that I will not go to speak with everyone. Where I don’t agree with the national Republican Party is long and hard, I am pro-choice, they are not. I am pro-gay rights as well as marriage equality, they are not.” – Joe Lhota, during televised debate on WABC

Both Lhota and de Blasio have very different opinions on how to adjust tax rates in the city. Lhota, claiming to be a conservative Republican, would like to lower taxes across the board throughout New York City, a move that is not favored by de Blasio.

“Mr. Lhota’s plan is to give tax breaks to the wealthy, tax breaks to the corporations.” – Bill de Blasio, during televised debate on WABC

De Blasio vows to raise taxes, but only on the rich, a move that according to Lhota is strictly political.

“Bill de Blasio is a career politician, and every career politician who says he will raise taxes only on the rich or the wealthy ends up also raising taxes on the middle class.” - Joe Lhota, during televised debate on WABC

But perhaps the biggest difference between the two mayoral hopefuls is their difference in opinion on the controversial policy of ‘stop-and-frisk’ and the track record of NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly. De Blasio has vowed to replace Kelly if elected.

“But I think I'm right in saying Mr. Lhota has said that he would want Ray Kelly to stay as police commissioner even though Ray Kelly has been the architect of the policy of stop-and-frisk.” Bill de Blasio, during televised debate on WABC

Joe Lhota said he will keep Commissioner Kelly on job.

“I will be honest with you. I will not bash the man who has lowered crime to levels we have never seen in the city before. We should be thanking him, not bashing him.” - Joe Lhota, during televised debate on WABC

According to a poll released earlier this month by Quinnipiac University, Lhota trails de Blasio by 50 points, which means Lhota will need to use the remaining three weeks to make big strides if he wants to remain relevant in the race. There are two more televised debates scheduled to take place before the November 5 election day.

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