NEW YORK -- The surprising new front-runner in the mayor's race received the bulk of the attacks Wednesday in a free-wheeling and often testy debate, the clearest sign yet that the dynamic of the race has changed with less than three weeks to go until the Democratic primary.
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio, who has a slight lead in recent polls, engaged in several spirited back-and-forths with his two closest competitors vying for the two spots in a seemingly inevitable run-off.
"The public advocate is good at telling people what to do but not good at getting things done," City Council Speaker Christine Quinn said.
"Would the real Bill de Blasio please stand up?" ex-comptroller Bill Thompson asked.
Quinn and Thompson forged an unlikely alliance, as Quinn took the debate moderator's offer to ask another candidate a question and gave her turn to Thompson. He then demanded that de Blasio take down an ad that portrays the public advocate as the only candidate who has vowed to end the era of the police department's stop-and-frisk tactic.
De Blasio refused. He then joked that he thought "tag teams were only allowed in professional wrestling."
De Blasio became the front-runner for the first time just a week ago. Quinn led in the polls most of the year until ex-congressman Anthony Weiner took a turn at the top before his support collapsed after his latest sexting scandal.
The police stop-and-frisk policy, and other complaints that police unfairly target minorities, repeatedly emerged as a flashpoint in the 90-minute televised debate, which featured the seven Democratic candidates frequently talking over each other. The debate also featured Weiner, Comptroller John Liu and two lesser-known candidates, ex-councilman Sal Albanese and the Rev. Erick Salgado.
The debate came at the end of a tumultuous day that saw Quinn condemn what she believed was an attack from de Blasio's wife on her ability to solve issues related to women and children.
De Blasio's wife, Chirlane McCray, was quoted in The New York Times saying the speaker, who's vying to be the first female and first openly gay mayor, was "not the kind of person" to whom she'd feel comfortable talking about issues affecting women and children.
The de Blasio camp insisted McCray was misquoted. The Times later corrected its story. But Quinn said she believed the "sentiment was the same" in a longer quote.
"It made me sad," Quinn said at the debate.
De Blasio insisted in the debate that his wife only meant she disagreed with Quinn's policies and intended no personal insult.
Recent polls suggest it's a three-person race for two run-off spots. In a Quinnipiac poll released last week, de Blasio had slight leads on Quinn and Thompson, but all three were within the margin of error.
If no Democratic candidate reaches 40 percent of the vote on the Sept. 10 primary, the top two advance to a run-off three weeks later. The winner of that advances to the November general election. Three major Republican candidates and an independent also are running.
There were a few lighthearted moments during Wednesday's debate. During a lightning round, candidates were asked if they have ever sent a text message while driving.
Weiner, who has admitted exchanging illicit electronic correspondence with women, drew roars of laughter when he quickly and firmly said, "Yes."
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Bill de Blasio
Currently the city's Public Advocate, <a href="http://www.billdeblasio.com/" target="_blank">Bill de Blasio announced his bid for mayor in January 2013.</a> He has supported the paid sick leave bill,<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/bill-de-blasio/humane-alternatives-for-h_b_821291.html" target="_blank"> banning horse-drawn carriages</a>, and has been fiercely <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/01/19/nyregion/19homeless.html" target="_blank">critical of Mayor Michael Bloomberg's homeless policies. </a>
Former Democratic congressman <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/22/anthony-weiner-2013-mayoral-race_n_3316704.html" target="_blank">Anthony Weiner finally announced his bid for mayor</a> in May after months of intense speculation by the media and politicians alike. In 2011, an embarrassing sexting scandal forced Weiner to resign from Congress. The lewd photos, along with his denial and subsequent admission, kept him out of the political spotlight until this spring.
As the city's current comptroller, <a href="http://johnliu2013.com/" target="_blank">John Liu</a> oversees New York City's finances. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/03/25/comptroller-john-liu-ackn_n_1378211.html" target="_blank">Despite a federal investigation accusing two former aides to Liu of breaking campaign finance laws</a>, Liu announced his candidacy for mayor in March. In a recent interview, <a href="http://www.dnainfo.com/new-york/20130319/new-york-city/john-liu-says-all-democratic-mayoral-candidates-are-basically-same" target="_blank">Liu said, "We are all liberal Democrats"</a> and suggested Democratic mayoral hopefuls were all the same, differing on only a few issues such as stop and frisk. If elected, Liu would become the city's first Asian-American mayor.
<a href="http://www.quinnfornewyork.com/announcement?splash=1" target="_blank">Christine Quinn</a> is the current City Council Speaker of New York City. She is said to be Mayor Michael Bloomberg's favorite candidate.
From 2002-2009, <a href="http://billthompsonformayor.com/" target="_blank">Bill Thompson served as New York City's Comptroller. </a> Thompson, a Democrat, ran for mayor in 2009 against Bloomberg. He was outspent 14 to 1 by Bloomberg, and still only lost by a few percentage points.
Adolfo Carrion Jr.
Adolfo Carrion, Jr. was the Bronx Borough President from 2002 to 2009 and was appointed by the Obama administration as the Regional Director for HUD's New York office. <a href="http://www.carrion2013.com/" target="_blank">He is running for mayor as an independent. </a>
Staten Island's <a href="http://www.salgadonyc.com/" target="_blank">Rev. Erick Salgado </a>announced his Democratic candidacy for mayor, despite a socially <a href="http://politicker.com/2013/02/erick-salgados-odd-coalition/" target="_blank">conservative agenda</a> which includes anti-gay marriage, pro-life policies.
<a href="http://www.salalbanese2013.com/" target="_blank">Sal Albanese</a> is a former city council member also hoping to win the Democratic primary. He also worked as a New York City public school teacher. <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/politics/2012/12/6850576/former-brooklyn-councilman-sal-albanese-make-third-try-mayor" target="_blank">This will be his third bid for mayor of New York City. </a>
Before launching his GOP candidacy for mayor, <a href="https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&cad=rja&ved=0CDoQFjAB&url=http%3A%2F%2Fjoelhotaformayor.com%2F&ei=TOJ2UeXyAqT00QGe8oHYBA&usg=AFQjCNHVt6kspcgFB31wwgs6FO44kr2fSQ&bvm=bv.45580626,d.dmQ" target="_blank">Joseph Lhota</a> served as MTA chairman and served as the City’s Budget Director in Mayor Giuliani’s first term, and Deputy Mayor for Operations during the second. In 1999, he fought a public battle against the Brooklyn Museum to remove a portrait of the Virgin Mary containing elephant dung. <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/28/nyregion/for-lhota-mayoral-hopeful-who-lost-fight-to-remove-art-no-regrets.html?pagewanted=all" target="_blank">He lost. </a>
<a href="https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&cad=rja&ved=0CEcQFjAC&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.cats2013.com%2F&ei=SON2UaHQG6nq0gGq3oCoDw&usg=AFQjCNELoeyQyeiyb-RKgsBoAZmaMq38vA&bvm=bv.45580626,d.dmQ" target="_blank">John Catsimatidis </a>. a Republican candidate for mayor, is a billionaire supermarket mogul. He is known for his pro-NYPD policies and <a href="http://www.nypost.com/p/news/local/mayoral_hopeful_john_catsimatidis_JtW3R5pgD1OwpRnbvWSuyM" target="_blank">supports the continuation of the department's controversial stop-and-frisk program. </a>
<a href="https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=3&cad=rja&ved=0CEwQFjAC&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.mcdonald2013.com%2F&ei=9uN2Ub7OAc-C0QGmooCQCA&usg=AFQjCNFKEjqwcjPtmMrF_o2C8pw_dLzGjA&bvm=bv.45580626,d.dmQ" target="_blank">George McDonald</a> is the founder and president of The Doe Fund, a non-profit that seeks to help homeless and formerly incarcerated individuals find work. He has never held public office. He initially identified himself as a Democrat but has since switched to the Republican party. McDonald has received criticism for trying to challenge <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/25/nyregion/george-t-mcdonald-ends-effort-t-o-sidestep-a-city-cap-in-mayors-race.html" target="_blank">campaign contribution limits. </a>
Former Democratic congressman <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/22/anthony-weiner-2013-mayoral-race_n_3316704.html" target="_blank">Anthony Weiner finally announced his bid for mayor</a> in May after months of intense speculation by the media and politicians alike. In 2011, an embarrassing sexting scandal forced Weiner to resign from Congress. The lewd photos, along with his denial and subsequent admission, have since dogged his political career, but a <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/28/anthony-weiner-nyc-mayor_n_3347673.html" target="_blank">recent poll revealed many New Yorkers were willing to forgive and forget</a>, with voters putting him at second only behind frontrunner Christine Quinn.