The race for city comptroller has been largely an afterthought ever since Eliot Spitzer was knocked out in last month's primary, but Tuesday night, the Democratic and Republican candidates squared off in their first televised debate right here on NY1, and one of them came out swinging. NY1's Bobby Cuza filed the following report.
Republican John Burnett is a virtual unknown, facing long odds in his race against Democratic nominee Scott Stringer. One way to get noticed, of course, is by drawing blood, so on Tuesday night, he went on the attack right from the start.
"You've been in politics for 25 years and you owe a ton of favors. I'm surprised you still even have your own soul," Burnett said. "Maybe I shouldn't be presumptuous. Maybe you actually sold that off a long time ago."
Reviving a line of attack used by Spitzer, Burnett knocked Stringer, who, as Manhattan Borough President, is trustee of a city pension fund, for missing its board meetings.
"You just don't show up," Burnett said. "You're a failure."
He also sought to contrast his two decades of experience in financial services with Stringer's career in politics.
"At the end of the day, people will focus on who is experienced and who is a political hack," Burnett said.
"This is real work I did," Stringer said. "Yes, government work, but it was work that made a difference in people's lives."
Stringer, for the most part, stayed above the fray, talking at length about auditing and pension management. He did, however, often remind voters of Burnett's party affiliation.
"As the Republican candidate, what do you say to the people of New York City today that your party is shutting down the government and trying to put urban America out of business?" Stringer said. "Especially our city, where the hardship would be devastating."
"My opponent's trying to lump me in the same bucket as all Republicans," Burnett said. "That's like me saying that he goes around taking pictures and tweeting his private parts because Anthony Weiner did it. That's like saying that he goes around with hookers because some other Democrat did it."
The two will meet in another debate if Burnett reaches poll numbers of at least 10 percent. So far, no polls have been conducted.
Meanwhile, two of the candidates for mayor will debate each other Wednesday on NY1.
Republican Joseph Lhota and Independence Party candidate Adolfo Carrion will go head to head at the CUNY Graduate Center at 7 p.m.
NY1's invitation to Bill de Blasio to take part is still open, but his campaign has repeatedly turned down NY1's requests for him to take part, saying he's already agreed to do three other debates.