By now, we should know that democracy isn’t pretty. And last night, it certainly wasn’t boring.

Bill de Blasio, Nicole Malliotakis, and Bo Dietl squared off against each other in a debate that sometimes resembled a pro wrestling match in which the crowd came close to becoming a fourth participant on stage at Symphony Space.

As independent candidate Bo Dietl tried to yell and clown his way through the 90-minute forum, Republican Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis easily delivered her best performance in a campaign where she has struggled to distinguish herself up to now.

Perhaps feeding off the energy of the crowd or perhaps realizing that she has nothing to lose beyond a mayor’s race in that she is already badly losing, Malliotakis gave a strong counter-argument to the mayor’s four years in office – questioning his record on homelessness and his management and budget skills.

De Blasio largely ignored Dietl’s bluster while focusing on  Malliotakis’ Republican label. It’s a bad year to be a Republican in a city that delivered 79 percent of its vote to Hillary Clinton last year.

In a low point in the debate, Malliotakis bristled at NY1’s Grace Rauh for asking her about her position on Trump – using a classic Trump ploy by accusing Rauh of carrying the mayor’s water. The mayor – who is in the middle of a messy Freedom of Information battle with Rauh – was likely laughing inside.

Amid the tumult of the night, de Blasio did a good job reviewing his accomplishments and parrying away fair questions about his administration’s shortcomings. Most importantly, he kept his cool as the temperature increased in the theater.

The conductor of the night was NY1 Political Anchor Errol Louis. In most debates, the best moderators are largely seen but not heard. But the partisan crowd sparked Louis to act – even getting one heckler kicked out of the audience.

Not every debate needs to be dialed up to 11, but in a race that has largely been ignored by the public, the Symphony Space cacophony was a reminder that democracy is alive and well. We shook you by the collar last night; you’ve got less than four weeks to tune in.


Bob Hardt