It has been hard for the Republicans running for mayor to get their messages out, as they compete against the contentious and crowded Democratic primary, but the three candidates had a chance to be heard in a debate Wednesday. NY1's Grace Rauh filed the following report.
Former MTA Chairman Joseph Lhota may be leading in the polls, but his attacks on John Catsimatidis, the billionaire owner of the Gristedes grocery store chain, are a sign that he is worried about his wealthy rival.
Lhota: I was the budget director of the city of New York. I used to do this day in and day out. Don't make up numbers.
Catsimatidis: I don't make up numbers. I know what I'm talking about.
Lhota: Why are you so angry?
Catsimatidis: I'm not.
Catsimatidis is trying to cast himself as the next Michael Bloomberg. He is a self-made businessman funding his own campaign, but for some observers, the comparison stops there.
"John Catsimatidis is no Mike Bloomberg," said Republican mayoral candidate George McDonald.
Those were among the few heated exchanges in a relatively civil debate. After the face-off ended, however, it got more personal.
"I've yet to see any vision from John Catsimatidis," Lhota said.
"He's got a billion dollars, so you treat him like he's a serious candidate," McDonald said.
When it comes to the city's soaring pension obligations, Catsimatidis proposed giving city workers a choice: Keep a fixed pension and take home a smaller paycheck, or get paid more and have a 401k.
Lhota said he wants to move toward a system like a 401k and do away with defined pension benefits.
McDonald, the founder of a not-for-profit group that helps the homeless, said he will not agree to any labor deal that does not require city employees to contribute to their health plans.
Lhota did not express support for privatizing the city's public housing developments.
Catsimatidis said he is considering a plan to allow some public housing residents to buy their apartments for $25,000 to $30,000.
As for public health, Lhota said he will try to end asthma in New York City, Catsimatidis, who has diabetes, said he will focus on nutrition, and McDonald said he will try to enact Bloomberg's plan to ban the sale of large sugary drinks.