The debate between Eliot Spitzer and Scott Stringer last night was a nasty affair with the two candidates for City Comptroller discarding their green eyeshades for boxing gloves as they each sought to outswing the other.
Stringer – who comes from a politically-connected family – sought to portray Spitzer as a silver spooner who is trying to buy his way back into office. Spitzer -- who hardly reinvented Albany in his scandal-truncated year as governor -- painted Stringer as a do-nothing former assemblyman who has accomplished little as Manhattan Borough President. And those were the nice moments of the debate.
No matter the outcome of this race, Stringer has quickly shed his milquetoast skin for the garb of a political street fighter. Not only has the Democratic establishment unified behind him, but Stringer has also shown some sharp teeth in what has quickly become the nastiest citywide primary race. And any notion that time or distance from Albany has mellowed Spitzer should have been discarded after last night's debate in which he reveled in body slamming Stringer "with all due respect."
Putting the punching to the side, the two candidates presented fundamentally different visions of the comptroller's job. Stringer seems to largely embrace the role of comptroller as it has been performed in the recent past by John Liu, Liz Holtzman, and Harrison Goldin. (Let's not talk about Alan Hevesi!)
Spitzer, though, sounds like he'd be a comptroller on steroids. While Stringer talks about being a steward, Spitzer is more pitbull. (Gender gap, anyone?) There's no wonder that the mayoral candidates would prefer Stringer as comptroller – but Stringer's best argument may be that Spitzer would bring his Albany gridlock to City Hall. So between the mud and the philosophical differences, the race for City Comptroller could be the most fascinating campaign before the likely mayoral primary runoff on Oct. 1. Who ever thought bookkeeping could be so exciting?