NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Several of the Democratic mayoral candidates took swipes at soon-to-retire Mayor Michael Bloomberg during a debate Tuesday, particularly on his election to an unprecedented third term and the issue of unionized city workers who have been without contracts.
Candidates Christine Quinn, Anthony Weiner, Bill Thompson, John Liu, and Bill de Blasio gathered for the debate on Tuesday night.
The debate came as a new Quinnipiac University poll placed de Blasio as the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination, surging past former leader Quinn.
In blasting Bloomberg for circumventing the term limits law to run successfully for a third term four years ago, de Blasio accused fellow candidate Quinn of complicity in the move.
"Speaker Quinn gave Mayor Bloomberg a third term in a backroom deal that defied the Democratic will of the people. What did we get? A massive increase in the use of stop and frisk, huge fines – unfair fines – on small business, and the inequalities gripping our city was ignored by the mayor," de Blasio said. "That's what we got in the third term, and the people's will was ignored, and that's the worst thing about it."
As CBS 2's Marcia Kramer reported, it was one of many heated exchanges between Quinn and de Blasio. De Blasio also accused Quinn of "deliver(ing) for the big business community by holding up the paid sick leave bill legislation," and "for the real estate industry by offering them a $1 billion tax giveaway."
Democratic Mayoral Candidates Square Off, Bash Bloomberg In Debate
Quinn was on the defensive -- particularly amidst the attacks stemming from her perceived association with Bloomberg.
"I've gone to City Hall every day, prevented the layoff of 4,100 schoolteachers, grew good tech and manufacturing jobs, and again, I think my opponents are attacking me repeatedly, because they simply do not have that kind of record delivering for middle class New Yorkers," Quinn said.
Meanwhile, Liu accused Bloomberg of "checking out" during his third term and becoming indifferent to the people of the city.
"Many people understand that Mayor Bloomberg's checked out during his third term. He checked out when there was a huge snowstorm that was snowbounding people, and told them to watch a Broadway play. He told people that there were no homeless people living in the streets of New York, and most recently, he felt that more blacks and Latinos needed to be stopped and frisked as opposed to whites," Liu said. "That's checked out."
On the issue of union contracts, Thompson blamed Bloomberg for the fact that no agreement has been reached in four years.
"I don't think unions have been waiting three and four years, and in some cases longer for a better deal," Thompson said. "They would have liked to get a better deal and make it with the current mayor," but Bloomberg chose not to, Thompson claimed.
At his budget address in May, Bloomberg said the city simply does not have the money for big increases.
But while the candidates did not promise retroactive pay, many of them slammed Bloomberg for failing to hammer out a deal with city workers.
"Mayor Bloomberg completely failed on this account," Liu said. "How can a mayor go four years – an entire mayoral term – without resolving a single municipal labor contract?"
Some other candidates did not mention Bloomberg personally, but said a different approach is needed.
De Blasio said he would make contracts with city workers a priority while finding ways to save money, while Quinn said she was the only candidate to bring unions together with the city, and in the case of teachers, receive concessions that prevented 4,100 layoffs.
Weiner said workers will need to pay more for health care, but that funding would be found to ensure that more money was available to give them raises.
Meanwhile, Liu was questioned about the recent convictions of a former campaign worker and a former fundraiser on charges of scheming to circumvent donation limits. Treasurer Jenny Hou and Oliver Pan were found guilty in federal court of plotting to cheat New York City out of campaign funds.
Following the convictions, the New York City Campaign Finance Board denied public matching funds for Liu. At the debate, Liu said the board "mischaracterized the campaign, but at the end of the day, they can keep their money," because the campaign is really about people and a message, he said.
Weiner and Thompson also came to Liu's defense and criticized the board's decision.
"I know John Liu. I find him to be an honorable man, and I think the prosecution of him has gone too far," Weiner said. "I don't think you should vote for him. I think you should vote for me. But I don't think you should not vote for him because of that."
The candidates also discussed several other policy issues, including the stop-and-frisk policy, the question of whether raising taxes on the highest earners was as good idea, whether identification should be provided to undocumented immigrants, and the need for education reform – particularly in light of the recent news that less than a third of eighth graders passed standardized tests.
As 1010 WINS' Sonia Rincon reported, the candidates all generally agreed with the stop-and-frisk ruling, and Quinn said she would continue to support the Community Safety Act on racial profiling.
Democratic Mayoral Candidates Square Off, Bash Bloomberg In Debate
"The Council and I have worked on reforming this for years, and next week, we will override the mayor's veto," she said.
Most of the candidates also came out against the use of standardized testing as a principal benchmark for student performance, with Thompson calling it an "obsession." But Weiner defended the common core standards on which the tests were based, saying he would not join "the choir beating up on Mayor Bloomberg" about them, but adding that teachers must be trained to educate students using them.
As to Weiner's latest headline-grabbing sexting scandal, two opponents sidestepped scandal altogether, while two others went on the offensive.
"I don't want to talk about Anthony, and that's not why I'm here tonight. I want to talk about the future of the city of New York," Thompson said.
"Anthony – other people can talk about him, but please don't ask me any more questions about him," added Liu.
But de Blasio said Weiner should quit the race.
"Mr. Weiner should step aside for the good of the city, because we need a debate on the issues," he said.
Quinn slammed Weiner for what she characterized as a lack of a record in Congress.
"We've all heard a lot about his personal issues. For me, the bigger issue is his record," she said. "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."
In closing, all five candidates presented themselves as progressives and defenders of the middle class and everyday people in the city.
"This election is about leadership. It's about leadership that is principled and has integrity; leadership that is tried and tested," Thompson said, characterizing himself as "a leader that the public can trust." He said in particular that he wants to work to turn around schools and not close them, and ensure that the NYPD makes the city safer without violating anyone's constitutional rights.
Weiner indirectly addressed his sexting scandal in his closing statement.
"I waged this campaign on a bet that New Yorkers will be less interested in my personal life" than in their own future, he said.
"There's no doubt about it – there are some powerful voices in the city who really don't want me in. They've made that very clear at the outset," he said. "But this isn't about them. This is about you."
Quinn noted that her own grandparents came to New York from Ireland in hopes of getting out of poverty and into the middle class, and now, "I go to City Hall all day every day and fight for middle class New Yorkers."
She called herself "the only one on this stage with a proven track record of results."
De Blasio took on both Bloomberg and fellow candidate Quinn, saying times were fantastic for Wall Street bankers who live on Park Avenue, but such was not the case for struggling everyday workers.
"If we're going to end this tale of two cities, we can't continue the policies of Mayor Bloomberg and Speaker Quinn," he said. "We have to have a progressive change."
He said he would raise taxes on the wealthy to fund schools, stop the closure of hospitals, and end the stop-and-frisk program altogether to effect that change.
And Liu talked about a Harlem woman he called Mrs. Brown, who he said has suffered both from stop-and-frisk – which has affected her children as they have walked to church or to the playground minding their own business – and a stagnant minimum wage.
"Mrs. Brown is one of those people I will fight for, even if it means getting a target on my back," he said.
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