Last night's debate with the three mayoral candidates defied expectations – and sometimes got downright weird. Joe Lhota – considered by many as the favorite in the race – largely emerged unscathed as George McDonald and John Catsimatidis slugged away at each other in what sometimes resembled a voyeuristic family feud. (This may be the first debate in which I learned that one of the candidates bought his home from another.)
McDonald claimed that Catsimatidis threatened to make him "disappear" on Curtis Sliwa's radio program. But after listening to the show in question, it seems that McDonald is off kilter. Boasting of his support, Catsimatidis tells Sliwa: "I believe we're going to get at least 40 percent 'cause I think George McDonald really disappears. I'm not sure he's going to have enough signatures to continue or enough money. He's a nice man." It doesn't sound like McDonald will be getting his court order of protection.
Beyond the bizarre, there was some actual substance. All three candidates united to trash the City Council legislation that is seeking to put some curbs on the NYPD. While McDonald thinks "jobs" will be the silver bullet to reduce the number of stop-and-frisks by cops, Catsimatidis embraced airport-style "magic wands" to scan possible suspects.
Although Lhota's record as MTA chairman was put under the microscope a little, the debate went smoothly for him. As McDonald and Catsimatidis sniped, Lhota stayed cool and seemed more comfortable with talking about the issues than his two rivals.
This race will likely continue to be an odd and little-noticed scrum heading into the Sept. 10th GOP primary. But the bigger challenge for these candidates is making enough of a wave to attract voters in a heavily-Democratic city in November. Last night, they barely caused a ripple.