Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Bloomberg and Thompson debate at Museo del Barrio

Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Comptroller William Thompson, Jr., squared off tonight at the Museo del Barrio in Manhattan in the first of two mayoral debates.

Bloomberg's decision to extend term limits dominated the hour-long debate. A heckler interrupted the mayor as he began his introduction. And Thompson blasted Bloomberg on term limits throughout the night.

"For seven years, Mike Bloomberg promised the voters of New York City he would not avoid them by changing term limits--it is as simple of that," he said in response to a series of questions WNYC host Brian Lehrer asked both candidates about term limits. "I think the voters of New York City are insulted."

The mayor highlighted the economy as he responded to Thompson.

"I understand their thoughts; I understand their views," Bloomberg said in reference to those who oppose his decision to seek a third term. "In the end, the choices are vote for him or vote for me."

The candidates further sparred on education, how to ensure the five boroughs recover from the recession, development, the New York Police Department's stop and frisk policy and a host of other issues, but Bloomberg did not deviate from his campaign's messages during the majority of the debate. Thompson, on the other hand, appeared rather defensive at times as Lehrer, moderator Dominic Carter of NY1, Adam Lisberg of the Daily News, Juan Manuel Benitez of NY1 Noticias and Michael Scotto of NY1 questioned him.

A Quinnipiac University poll conducted late last month found 52 percent of city voters surveyed indicated they back Bloomberg versus 36 percent who said they support Thompson. Those gathered inside the theater have almost certainly made up their minds as to the candidate for whom they plan to vote on Nov. 3. The real question remains, however, whether New Yorkers (and especially those voters who remain undecided) will even care about term limits when they go to the polls.

Thompson will almost certainly continue to point out Bloomberg's decision to seek a third term. The city's Democratic establishment continues to line up behind the comptroller, but Thompson needs something more than his opposition to term limits to convince undecided New Yorkers to vote for him. And tonight's debate simply reinforced the idea the comptroller's campaign remains built upon his opposition to a single issue.

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