Sometimes sequels really are better than the original.
Facing off at the second debate of the comptroller’s race, former Gov. Eliot Spitzer and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer managed to ratchet up the negativity and attacks even beyond what was seen during their first round in the ring last Friday.
“I don’t think that it’s right that the person who runs for this office should be somebody who has engaged in money laundering, somebody who has used his previous offices and used it in a way that suggests illegal activity both as attorney general and as governor,” the typically mild-mannered Mr. Stringer leveled at Mr. Spitzer early in the hour-long debate at the CUNY Graduate Center, which aired on NY1.
“My opponent here throws terms around and gets bogged in ad hominem attacks because he doesn’t have a career record to run upon,” Mr. Spitzer fired back. “So he has waged a relentless personal attack–“
“You just don’t know right from wrong,” Mr. Stringer responded, interrupting the firebrand former governor.
Moral approbations aside, Mr. Stringer took issue with a number of policies considered by Mr. Spitzer’s gubernatorial administration, including an abandoned plan to issue undocumented immigrants drivers licenses through an executive order in 2007.
“Sometimes you have to be willing to stand up alone,” Mr. Spitzer said, touting his record on the issue. “And that’s the difference between us. Sometimes you need to be independent and have the fortitude, be willing to stand up to the establishment, an establishment that has given you an embrace to the tune of millions of dollars in independent expenditures.”
“Your drivers license idea was a great idea and was a great press release,” Mr. Stringer antagonistically responded. “But you dropped it because you couldn’t take the heat in Albany. You actually couldn’t get it done.” It was one of several attacks on Mr. Spitzer’s record that referenced his perceived inability to work with others to get things done.
Mr. Stringer also continued to hit Mr. Spitzer for self-funding his candidacy and not participating in the city’s generous campaign finance program.
“Eliot’s trying to buy this race, he’s a self-funder. While he was in his Ivory Tower, we were actually doing this kind of work,” charged Mr. Stringer.
Mr. Spitzer responded by accusing Mr. Stringer of using the funds he accrued while attempting to run for mayor to finance his current bid.
“I didn’t take money from special interests. My money is my money,” Mr. Spitzer said.
The persistent vicious back-and-forth hit a somewhat lighter note during a “lightning round,” which included a question about whether either candidate had ever eaten a cronut–the mythical donut-croissant hybrid that has become a summer hit. Both emphatically said they had not.
The niceties didn’t last long, though.
After the debate had ended, Mr. Spitzer strode into a room where press was gathered with a confident grin. While he declined to speculate on the winner, he continued to fire at Mr. Stringer, accusing him of using backroom dealing to clear the field.
“There were two opponents who were going to run-two individuals who were going to run for city comptroller when he decided his mayoral race was a failure and he wasn’t registering in the polls, then he dropped down to comptroller and mysteriously those candidates backed out,” Mr. Spitzer said digging in to his opponent. “That’s the sort of backroom politics New York City does not need.”
Mr. Stringer, meanwhile, dismissed Mr. Spritzer as “Somebody who has resigned one office in disgrace to try and latch on to another office.” But he denied that he was engaging in personal mudslinging.
“I don’t think we had personal attacks,” Mr. Stringer told Politicker after the debate. “He has his disagreements with me. I obviously have disagreements with the way he’s comported himself as governor. But it was all about the issues; it was about our priorities.”