A debate about debates is the latest spat between Bill de Blasio, the Democratic nominee and frontrunner for New York mayor, and his Republican opponent Joseph Lhota.
A news release sent out by de Blasio’s campaign today listed three debates scheduled for the consecutive Tuesdays prior to the Nov. 5 election, with the first on Oct. 15. That would be the most debates for a mayoral general election in New York since 1985, the campaign said.
Lhota’s campaign quickly shot back with a statement of its own, calling it “incredibly disappointing” that de Blasio didn’t heed Lhota’s call to hold five debates, one in each of the city’s five boroughs.
“Trumpeting their agreement to a single debate beyond what is required by the campaign-finance law as historic is a joke,” said Jessica Proud, a spokeswoman for Lhota. “Their strategy of ducking the press and public since winning the nomination will grow weary on New Yorkers who want to see leadership from their next mayor.”
Polls have de Blasio, 52, leading by more than 40 percentage points over Lhota, 58, who headed the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and served as a top aide to former Mayor Rudolph Giuliani.
Debating will give the Republican a chance to try to narrow the gap with de Blasio in front of live, primetime television audiences. Democrats hold a 6-to-1 edge in voter registrations, yet haven’t controlled City Hall for 20 years.
“New Yorkers deserve a City Hall that thinks about those struggling just to get by instead of only focusing on the rich and the elite,” de Blasio said in the statement, repeating a refrain that helped elevate him from third place in a crowded primary. “I look forward to participating in these debates and presenting this vision for progressive reform directly to the people of New York City.”
Lhota has called de Blasio’s decrials of inequality divisive, arguing that the best way to foster opportunity for New Yorkers is by creating middle-class jobs and maintaining order in a city once plagued by crime and fiscal distress.
The 12-year tenure of Mayor Michael Bloomberg, founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP, concludes at the end of December.