The debate covered a range of topics from crime to income inequality to the gridlock in Washington and the continuing government shutdown.
The candidates offered very different visions for the future of New York City, disagreeing on matters ranging from public safety, to public housing, to tax hikes.
Lhota is the former head of the city's transit agency and a one-time deputy mayor. He opened Tuesday's debate by stressing that his experience means he could take office with "no learning curve whatsoever."
"My experience is vastly different from my opponent's, I've got more direct management in the City of New York, I was the budget director, I was the deputy Mayor for Operations, Governor Andrew Cuomo asked me and I accepted the position as chairman and CEO of the MTA, and I've spent much more time in the private sector. What's really important to understand is that I've been there before and I've done it," Lhota said.
De Blasio countered that his administration would reach out to "the grassroots" of all communities, but also touted his own experiences.
"I think because I have offered forceful vision and real experience I've won the endorsement of President Obama, President Clinton, Secretary Clinton, Governor Cuomo, people in many cases I've had the opportunity to work for. Yes I was the regional director for the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development covering all of New York State all of New Jersey representing President Clinton and Secretary Cuomo," de Blasio said.
They also debated on their ideas for taxation in the city, who should be taxed and what those taxes should be used for. Lhota called de Blasio's plan for taxing the wealthiest New Yorkers unrealistic.
"Look, Bill de Blasio is a career politician and every career politician that says they are only going to raise taxes on the wealthy ends up also raising taxes on the middle class. It's never happened anywhere in the country where they've just raised taxes on the wealthy, believe me, and believe me when I say this, he will not stop during his entire career, as a member of City Council he voted twice to increase the property taxes, there wasn't a fee or fine that he didn't vote for, there is a record of continual going back and taking money away from the middle class, it's not right, and he's right we are on the verge of losing the middle class because of the actions that he is taking," Lhota said.
Likewise, Mr. de Blasio called Lhota's response typical Republican rhetoric and says he wants to use tax money to fix the city's educational system by creating universal Pre-K.
"Mr. Lhota's plan is to give tax breaks to the wealthy, tax breaks to the corporations and that is classic Republican trickle down and I promise that is not going to help us. Let's talk about one tax and one tax only. If people make a half million or more for the next five years so we can fix our schools, that is a fair tax and it's something we need," de Blasio responded.
Another hot button topic was Stop and Frisk and whether or not if elected mayor they would keep Ray Kelly on as police commissioner.
"A federal judge has said that the way the Bloomberg administration has used Stop and Frisk was unconstitutional. When every one of us takes our oath of office in public service we say we are going to uphold the United States constitution. So it's very clear to me, not only is the overuse of Stop and Frisk tearing the police and community apart, it's not legal, it's not appropriate and we have to move away from it. I think I'm right in saying that Mr. Lhota would want Ray Kelly to stay as police commissioner even though Ray Kelly has been the architect of the overuse of Stop and Frisk that has had such a negative effect on the relationship between police and community and so many communities of color," de Blasio said.
"You're absolutely right I'll keep Ray Kelly if he wants to stay as police commissioner. I actually believe that what he's been able to do with reducing crime with 7,000 less police officers is extraordinary. Ray hasn't decided whether he's going to stay or not, but I'll be honest with you. I will not bash the man who has lowered crime to levels that we never seen in this city before. We should be thanking him not bashing him," Lhota said.
Lhota is running out of time to cut into Democrat Bill de Blasio's lead, which a series of recent polls shows is hovering near 50 points.
Lhota needed a victory to reverse de Blasio's momentum as he seeks to become the first Democrat to be elected mayor since 1989. Lhota has lacked financial backing and has also been dogged by associations to the national Republicans, who polls suggest are being blamed for the federal government shutdown.
De Blasio, meanwhile, has received endorsements from figures ranging from President Barack Obama to Gov. Andrew Cuomo. Hillary Rodham Clinton, whose 2000 Senate campaign was run by de Blasio, will be hosting a fundraiser for the public advocate this month.
Co-sponsors of the first debate include Noticias Univision 41, NY Daily News and the NYC League of Women Voters.
The candidates will meet two more times on Tuesday, October 22 and Tuesday, October 29 ahead of the November 5th general election.
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