NEW YORK (AP) — The Democratic candidates hoping to become the city's next mayor have fought on a debate stage one last time, with front-running Public Advocate Bill de Blasio receiving the majority of the verbal attacks.
The candidates traded barbs throughout Tuesday's contentious debate. Several candidates accused de Blasio of flip-flopping on issues including term limits, slumlords and expanded taxi service, a claim he denied. Ex-comptroller Bill Thompson urged de Blasio "to be honest" with voters.
The candidates also criticized independent Mayor Michael Bloomberg for not negotiating new contracts with city workers.
De Blasio, who has been ahead recently in the unpredictable campaign, which has seen three front-runners in as many months, said he'd strike new deals but can't promise retroactive raises. Other candidates refused to offer up any specifics, insisting they wouldn't negotiate through the media.
Hours before the debate started, a new poll released by Quinnipiac University showed de Blasio is the choice of 43 percent of likely Democratic voters, surging past the 40 percent needed to avoid a runoff. If no candidate makes the 40 percent mark, the top two primary finishers advance to an Oct. 1 runoff.
Thompson and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn are within about a point of each other for that second slot, according to recent polls, but they're significantly behind de Blasio.
They were joined on stage for the 90-minute debate by former congressman Anthony Weiner and city Comptroller John Liu, who have seen their candidacies dogged by scandal.
Weiner led the race for several weeks in June until his support collapsed in the wake of his latest sexting scandal. Two of Liu's staffers were convicted of misusing campaign funds though he was never charged with wrongdoing.
The debate, organized by the city's Campaign Finance Board, was broadcast on the local NBC affiliate while the last half-hour was shown only online.
The general election is Nov. 5. Bloomberg is leaving office after three terms.
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