The era of good feelings in the mayoral race–if it ever existed in the first place–is officially over.
Pulling no punches, the five leading Democrats tangled repeatedly at a mayoral debate televised by ABC tonight, marking the latest and most furious phase of the long campaign. While all of the candidates traded barbs, it was Council Speaker Christine Quinn and Anthony Weiner who exchanged perhaps the most bitter blows.
“So, Anthony’s right, we’ve all heard a lot about his personal issues. For me, the bigger issue is his record,” said Ms. Quinn in response to a question about Mr. Weiner’s sexting scandal. “I listed some of what I’ve accomplished in City Hall. But if you look at Anthony’s record in Congress, it was passing one piece of legislation at the request of a campaign contributor who was a tobacco distributor. That is not a record of results for middle class New Yorkers.”
Mr. Weiner, citing the slush fund scandal that hit the City Council five years ago, immediately shot back.
“Well you know, here’s the profound difference is I’ve apologized for my personal behavior,” Mr. Weiner replied. “The Speaker refuses to apologize for overturning the will of the people, for the slush fund scandal and for the things in her professional record. That’s the difference. I’ve owned up to my personal failings but I have a record that I’m proud of and I’m going to be honest with the citizens of this city and that is not something the Speaker can claim.”
“I think it’s very clear to all New Yorkers that neither me nor anybody else on this stage or any New Yorker quite frankly should be lectured by Anthony Weiner about what we need to apologize for tonight or ever,” Ms. Quinn replied.
Ms. Quinn also attacked Public Advocate Bill de Blasio–the front-runner in the race, according to a new poll– as well as rival Bill Thompson.
“Bill Thompson doesn’t want us to remember that when he was comptroller, our pension funds performed worse than similar pension funds across the country, in the bottom third. Bill de Blasio doesn’t want you to remember he never passed a bill that would help schools or create job,” Ms. Quinn charged.
Ms. Quinn also endured criticisms from multiple candidates for orchestrating the temporary overturning of term limits. And Mr. de Blasio was tweaked by Ms. Quinn and even Comptroller John Liu for his allegedly shifting positions hot button issues, like originally expressing support for term limits when he was interested in becoming City Council speaker in 2005. Mr. Weiner, ironically while defending Ms. Quinn, noted this.
“You know, the only difference between Speaker Quinn and Bill de Blasio is Speaker Quinn’s been more successful,” Mr. Weiner charged at one point. “They made the same promises to the same people, she got elected speaker and Bill’s never gotten over it.”
Mr. Weiner later lashed out at his rivals for having lengthy tenures in municipal government, trying to cast himself as a more independent voice. But the ex-congressman, also a former member of the City Council, could not escape another shot from Ms. Quinn.
“Not for nothing, you were in government your whole career until you had to resign from government so I’m not sure why you’re finger-pointing at people in government,” she asserted.
Thronged by reporters in the ABC studios after the debate, Ms. Quinn was asked why she was so willing to joust with Mr. Weiner.
“You know, I think when some things are said that are just wrong, they have to be responded to,” she told reporters. “You know this race is obviously about an election, but it’s also about making sure the record is set straight and the conversation is on the merits.”