In the second big mayoral debate, Quinn and Thompson 'tag team' Bill de Blasio
On Wednesday night, most of the mayoral field was preoccupied with Bill de Blasio.
During the candidate-question segment, three of de Blasio's rivals posed questions directly to the public advocate, who has risen to front-runner status in recent polls, and two others tried bank-shot questions that were ostensibly for other candidates, but were actually aimed at de Blasio.
After Bill Thompson called on de Blasio to remove his television ad proclaiming himself the only candidate who will end "the stop-and-frisk era," Quinn followed up.
She posed her question to Thompson: "Are you satisfied with the answer you just got?"
De Blasio laughed and appealed to the host. "Errol Louis is way too street-smart to allow that one," he said.
But the question stood, and Quinn's assist allowed Thompson to go on at some length about how it was "part of a pattern" of misstatements from de Blasio.
He rattled off some of the objections to de Blasio's record, which echoed criticism from Quinn's campaign earlier in the day; Quinn's campaign had argued de Blasio "supported changing term limits through legislation." And then Thompson accused him of hypocrisy on the member-item process.
"In professional wrestling they allow tag teams," de Blasio said as a preface to his response, saying he "led the opposition to term limits" in 2009.
Thompson had gone after de Blasio preemptively in response to an earlier question about taxes, calling his plan to raise taxes on high-earners to fund pre-kindergarten "almost a tax in search of an idea."
"I guess Bill Thompson has not talked to public school parents in this city recently," de Blasio replied.
Quinn had taken aim too, citing his press conference yesterday with Susan Sarandon, who made some critical comments about St. Vincent's Hospital before its closure in 2010.
When it was Anthony Weiner's turn, he posed a question to Quinn that was also about de Blasio, asking if the former Councilman was implicated anywhere in the non-public paperwork related to the so-called slush-fund scandal.
It appeared to be an attempt by Weiner, who needs to make up some ground in the polls, to ding two top rivals with one shot, but it also afforded Quinn the opportunity to make a dignified defense of her opponent.
"I'm not exactly sure what report Mr. Weiner is referring to," she replied, adding that "casting aspersions on the public advocate like that is just outrageous."
De Blasio said he had "literally no idea" what Weiner was talking about, and thanked Quinn for her defense.
The moderators also had one question specific to de Blasio. They waited until just after the one-hour mark to ask about the day's biggest news, a corrected Maureen Dowd column in which de Blasio's wife, Chirlane McCray questioned Quinn's commitment to family issues.
"My wife meant no offense," de Blasio said. He said she was speaking as a parent, and that it was a "respectful and substantive statement."
Quinn, who had seized on the remark earlier in the day, said she found it "hurtful and upsetting."
(After the debate, Thompson declined to offer his own interpretation to reporters.)
De Blasio aimed his own question at Quinn, asking whether she planned to vote for a racial profiling bill, when the Council attempts to override two vetoes by Mayor Michael Bloomberg tomorrow.
Quinn talked generally about how the Council's work, which also includes a bill to establish an inspector general, which she supports, would help curb stop-and-frisk, saying that "unlike the public advocate, who's very good at telling people what to do, but not so good at getting things done himself," her work would lead to results.
But after more needling from de Blasio on how she'd vote, she explained that she opposed the so-called racial profiling bill, because profiling is already illegal, and in her view, it would needlessly involve the state courts.
Meanwhile, the other candidates struggled for attention.
Weiner had a few memorable lines. He said the city isn't even prepared for a "stiff wind" right now, and that it should be legal to drink in parks and on beaches.
John Liu called Thompson and de Blasio "Billy-come-latelys" on the issue of stop-and-frisk, and said Thompson was among the "one-percenters" he'd like to tax more.
But Weiner and Liu couldn't really break into the extended exchanges between Quinn, Thompson and de Blasio.
And the other two candidates, Sal Albanese and Erick Salgado, had even more trouble, literally piping up for more attention.
"Do I get to talk here?" asked Albanese, who was left out of the last debate.