At final Dem primary debate, de Blasio painted as 'flip-flopper'

(L-R) Democratic candidates for New York City mayor (L-R) Democratic candidates for New York City mayor Bill de Blasio, Christine Quinn and John Liu meet for their final debate one week before the primary in Manhattan. (Sept. 3, 2013) Photo Credit: Andrew Hinderaker

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In the final Democratic primary mayoral debate, former Comptroller Bill Thompson and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn Tuesday night concentrated their attacks on the front-running candidate Bill de Blasio and tried to paint him as a serial flip-flopper.

Thompson accused de Blasio of "saying one thing and doing another" and Quinn slammed him for "talking out both sides of his mouth."

They criticized him for taking $54,000 from building owners who, according to a published report, were on a worst-landlords watch list he had established as public advocate, and for changing his mind on term-limit extensions. Quinn also hit him on switching positions on whether City Council members should get to allocate "member item" funds in their districts.

"He will say anything depending on whose votes he's trying to get," Quinn said.

De Blasio said landlords donated the cash "once they did the right thing" and made repairs. He touted an endorsement from Tenants PAC, a tenant group that lobbies officials.

The debate was held one week before the Sept. 10 primary. De Blasio, Quinn, Thompson, former Rep. Anthony Weiner and Comptroller John Liu sparred for an hour on WNBC-TV and 30 minutes more on a Web-only segment.

Weiner, whose support has cratered since late July after a second sexting scandal, acted at times more like an onstage commentator than a candidate. He jumped to de Blasio's defense at one point, saying he "has been very good on standing up to slumlords" but should be attacked for changing positions on term-limit extensions. "That's the real crime," Weiner said.

De Blasio said he fought the term-limit extension and blamed Quinn for the "backroom deal."

Quinn also went after de Blasio's signature proposal -- raising taxes on those making $500,000 or more to fund pre-kindergarten and after-school programs -- saying the plan is "pie-in-the-sky" because it requires state approval. His plan is going to "die on the rocks of Albany," she said.

"That's old thinking," retorted de Blasio. He insisted that officials in Albany would back a tax hike once they see the City Council supported it. He said past mayors have been successful in raising taxes when the city needed it most.

Quinn was targeted for the slush fund uproar of 2008 over the council's hidden reserve for member items, which had no oversight. She said "no" when asked if she ever used a member item for political leverage -- an assertion de Blasio challenged. She said she had "inherited" the system and effectively "put in end to it."

Weiner called the slush-fund fight "slightly entertaining" and summarized: "The speaker gave the money for the slush fund, de Blasio got the money from the slush fund and then you have two comptrollers who supposedly were watching the checkbook while the slush fund scandal was going on. This is your problem right here."

Quinn and de Blasio at one point seemed to band together in defending a City Council vote to increase property taxes in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks after Thompson questioned them on hurting the middle class.

Liu, meanwhile, promoted theories he and his aides had been "set up" in a federal investigation into his campaign practices and attacked the city Campaign Finance Board's denial of public matching funds to him for alleged inappropriate fundraising.

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