With a week to go before election day, Mayor Michael Bloomberg and his opponent Bill Thompson squared-off Tuesday night in a lively debate where the two sparred over campaign donations, job creation and keeping New York affordable for the middle class.
Bloomberg is running for a third term on the Republican and Independence Party lines, while Thompson is running as the Democratic Party candidate in the Nov. 3 vote.
The mayor and his opponent traded jabs during the one-hour debate televised on WABC -- Thomspon's last real chance to land a punch at Bloomberg while promoting his own plans for the city.
Tuesday's debate - the second of two -- focused heavily on issues important to most New Yorkers -- rents, taxes, education and the MTA.
In perhaps the most dramatic moment of the night, Thompson said he would "be generous" and give Bloomberg a "D-minus" grade as mayor, an answer that elicited gasps from the audience. For his part, Bloomberg, apparently taking the opportunity to be conciliatory, said he thinks Thompson has been a "reasonably good" city comptroller "but is not the right guy to run the city. I am."
Bloomberg trumpeted his accomplishments after eight years in office, saying he needs four more years to continue to improve education and reduce crime. "We have brought people together, and I want to keep doing that. We have given people hope that we are going to develop this city," he said.
Thompson promoted himself as the candidate for middle class New Yorkers, accusing Bloomberg, again and again, of "failing to close the affordability gap" in the city. He said the city needs a mayor "on the side of the middle class, first."
"I think this city is going in the wrong direction," he said. "The middle class and working New Yorkers and poor New Yorkers are being pushed out of the city by this administration. The opportunity I knew, that my parents knew, are no longer a reality," he said.
Bloomberg fired back, accusing Thompson of planning to introduce "job killing taxes" should he be elected. "He's said so many things, I can’t keep track of who he’s going to tax, but he’s going to tax someone," Bloomberg said.
Bloomberg again revisited a campaign theme that Thompson had failed as Board of Education president, saying during his "the only jobs he created were patronage jobs."
Thompson returned the shot, calling education under the Bloomberg administration an "Enron" that is full of fuzzy math.
A Quinnipiac poll out yesterday found that Bloomberg is leading Thompson by 53 percent to 35 percent with 10 percent still undecided.
The race has been contentious, with both sides running negative ads.
The latest campaign records show Bloomberg, as of last Friday, had spent $85 million on his campaign for a third term, and he's on pace to shell out between $110 million and $140 million before the election on Nov. 3. Thompson has only spent about $6 million.