Spitzer and Stringer Pull No Punches at Final Debate as Election Day Nears

20130904 091841 Spitzer and Stringer Pull No Punches at Final Debate as Election Day Nears

Eliot Spitzer and Scott Stringer this morning.

If there were any remaining questions on the subject, they have been answered: Eliot Spitzer and Scott Stringer are certainly not buddies anymore.

The two comptroller candidates squared off for the last time this morning, trading blow after blow at a Midtown forum hosted by the Council of Urban Professionals. Mr. Stringer was especially aggressive, pummeling the former governor again and again for resigning in the wake of a prostitution scandal five years ago. Mr. Spitzer, meanwhile, tried to brush off the attacks, while offering hits of his own.

“As a public official for 20 years, I don’t have anything to apologize for. I didn’t resign in disgrace,” Mr. Stringer declared at one point. “My tenure in public office was not called a ‘colossal failure’ by the New York Times. Every independent validator in the waning days of this campaign … point to my qualifications as comptroller and my opponent’s lack of qualifications for this office.”

Mr. Stringer continued to pile on as Mr. Spitzer grinned, seeming to suppress an urge to interrupt the barrage. “Nobody should be elected to office who resigned in disgrace to an office that requires public trust of a $140 billion pension system, it’s simply ludicrous,” Mr. Stringer railed.

At first, Mr. Spitzer tried to dodge Mr. Stringer’s “personal attacks,” instead touting his ability to build coalitions when he was attorney general. But Mr. Spitzer eventually took some veiled shots back. He promised not to be a “status quo voice for 20 years” and, upon being asked how voters could be sure the candidates wouldn’t simply use the office as leverage to run for mayor, Mr. Spitzer pointed out that Mr. Stringer once campaigned for that very job. “I didn’t spend three years running for mayor,” Mr. Spitzer said, “and then decide at the end of it it wasn’t going well so I better run for something else.”

As the forum wore on, Mr. Spitzer jumped at Mr. Stringer more often, criticizing him again for a lackluster attendance record as trustee of the city’s main pension system, NYCERS. “I’m glad Scott is so enamored of his NYCERS board position now. My recollection is you haven’t gone for the last three years,” Mr. Spitzer said.

“How many courts cases did you try as attorney general. Zero!” Mr. Stringer shot back.

As Mr. Spitzer began to knock the performance of NYCERS, Mr. Stringer cut in to argue that editorial boards had praised his stewardship of the fund.

“Scott, stop interrupting,” Mr. Spitzer replied.

The attacks didn’t end in their closing remarks, where Mr. Stringer called Mr. Sptizer’s “Sheriff of Wall Street” reputation a “nice sound bite.”

“The sound bite I will quote is the one I heard thousands of times walking up Eastern Parkway on Monday at the Caribbean Day Parade: ‘Welcome back,’” Mr. Spitzer said.

“I didn’t get that feeling,” Mr. Stringer replied, rolling his eyes.