With a 50-point lead in the polls, Bill de Blasio last night ducked a debate on NY1 and WNYC but still managed to dominate the largely-cordial affair between Republican Joe Lhota and Independence Party candidate Adolfo Carrion.
Besides slamming de Blasio for not attending the debate, his two main rivals focused on his plan to tax the city's wealthiest residents – as well as his belief that some of the city's charter schools should pay rent.
With the exception of a dig by Carrion about Lhota's tenure at the MTA, the candidates avoided attacking each other and went after de Blasio on a litany of issues – including his absence from the forum.
"I'm sorry that Mr. de Blasio decided that he's going to take the Rose Garden strategy and not make any mistakes, " Carrion said.
With so much focus on de Blasio over the last several weeks, last night's debate showed that there are at least two other thoughtful candidates in the race who are well-versed in the issues confronting New York – and have many ideas about how to tackle them.
It's also interesting to see how charter schools have become a hot issue in the race – with both candidates speaking up on their behalf and defending the schools' move to cancel classes earlier this week so that parents and students could attend a large rally on their behalf.
By skipping the debate, de Blasio got a sneak preview of what he can expect to hear from Lhota in their debates over the next three weeks but it also allowed the Republican candidate a chance to get some practice in before he squares off against the lanky Democrat.
Carrion – who has had fundraising problems and been marginalized in the race – must be wondering what would have happened had he stayed in the Democratic fold and duked it in during primary season. Both he and Lhota are confronting a de Blasio steamroller – even if it didn't even bother to debate last night.