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City Comptroller Candidates Prepare For NY1 Debate

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Democratic city comptroller nominee Scott Stringer's Republican opponent gets perhaps his best chance to connect with voters in a debate Tuesday night on NY1. NY1's Bobby Cuza filed the following report.

John Burnett has an uphill battle. A Republican in a city where Democrats have a 6-to-1 enrollment advantage, he has low name recognition and little campaign cash. So he's hoping to seize the opportunity Tuesday night, when he'll mix it up with Scott Stringer in their first, and possibly only, televised debate, which will air on NY1.

"I think New Yorkers will clearly see that I am the only one in this race that has the experience and the fortitude and the level of independence," Burnett said. "Let's not forget that. Scott Stringer's been in politics for about 25 years, and it's hard to be in politics for 25 years and not owe anyone any favors."

Burnett has a compelling story. Born in East New York, he worked his way up the ranks of various Wall Street firms, spending 23 years in the private sector. This is his first run for public office.

"The one thing I have learned during my time running for comptroller: Take nothing for granted," Stringer said.

Stringer, the Manhattan borough president, is the clear favorite after toppling Eliot Spitzer in last month's primary, but after being taken by surprise by Spitzer's last-minute entry, Stringer knows you can't get caught looking ahead.

"I'm excited about the possibility of being comptroller, but I recognize that before you start measuring the drapes, there's an election to be won," he said.

Burnett's fundraising, or lack of it, is a handicap. He's raised only about $40,000. Stringer has raised $3.5 million, but spent almost all his money in the primary.

"When you look at Scott Stringer's last filing, he doesn't have that much money in the bank," Burnett said. "So Spitzer did me a favor by draining Scott Stringer's pockets."

Tuesday's debate at NY1 is being held in partnership with the city's Campaign Finance Board and other sponsors. A second debate will be held on October 24, but only if Burnett qualifies by polling at 10 percent or higher. The problem is, this race is so far off the radar that not a single poll has yet been conducted.

NY1 Debates

• On Tuesday, NY1 will air a live, one-hour debate between city comptroller candidates Scott Stringer and John Burnett that will take place at the NY1 studios. The debate will start at 7 p.m.

• On Wednesday, NY1 will air a live, one-hour mayoral debate between Republican candidate Joseph Lhota and Independence Party candidate Adolfo Carrion at the CUNY Graduate Center. That debate will also start at 7 p.m. NY1 is still hoping that Democratic candidate Bill de Blasio will accept an invitation to the debate.

• Each debate will be followed by a half-hour post-debate analysis program.

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