NEW YORK (AP) — The Democratic candidates hoping to become the city's next mayor began their final debate on Tuesday by criticizing Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
The high-stakes showdown, held a week before the Sept. 10 primary, opened with the candidates blaming Bloomberg, an independent, for not negotiating new contracts with city workers.
Public Advocate Bill de Blasio has recently been ahead in the unpredictable campaign, which has seen three front-runners in as many months. He said he'd strike new deals but can't promise retroactive raises.
Other candidates refused to offer up any specifics, insisting they wouldn't negotiate through the media.
Hours before the debate started, a new poll released by Quinnipiac University showed de Blasio is the choice of 43 percent of likely Democratic voters, surging past the 40 percent needed to avoid a runoff. If no candidate makes the 40 percent mark, the top two primary finishers advance to an Oct. 1 runoff.
City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and ex-comptroller Bill Thompson are within about a point of each other for that second slot, according to recent polls, but they're significantly behind de Blasio.
They were joined on stage for the 90-minute debate Tuesday by former congressman Anthony Weiner and city Comptroller John Liu, who have seen their candidacies dogged by scandal.
Weiner led the race for several weeks in June until his support collapsed in the wake of his latest sexting scandal. Two of Liu's staffers were convicted of misusing campaign funds though he was never charged with wrongdoing.
The debate, organized by the city's Campaign Finance Board, was broadcast on the local NBC affiliate while the last half-hour was to be shown only online.
The general election is Nov. 5. Bloomberg is leaving office after three terms.
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