Democratic comptroller candidates Eliot Spitzer and Scott Stringer attacked each other Friday during their first televised debate, with the former governor painting Stringer as a career politician and the Manhattan borough president continually referring to Spitzer's prostitution scandal.
"There's two standards of justice: one standard of justice for the rich and powerful like Eliot Spitzer, and another set of standards for everybody else," Stringer said. "Anyone who did what Eliot did would be in prison right now."
Spitzer noted that Stringer had considered running for mayor, but said he opted to vie for the comptroller's seat when he learned he wouldn't easily be elected mayor. "You cleared the field through backroom deals," Spitzer said. Later, he added: "When I go into the streets, I have the support of people, not the institutions."
The men traded barbs during the hourlong debate hosted by WABC, the Daily News and Univision at WABC studios on the Upper West Side. It was taped for broadcast on WABC Sunday.
Stringer had been on the glide path to the comptroller's office until Spitzer, who resigned as governor in 2008 after admitting he patronized prostitutes, announced his candidacy last month.
Spitzer is leading Stringer by 9 percentage points, 44 percent to 35 percent among Democratic voters, according to a New York Times-Siena College poll released Thursday.
Stringer Friday stressed his integrity and record of building coalitions.
Spitzer, known during his tenure as state attorney general as the "sheriff of Wall Street," highlighted his fiscal experience and independence. Spitzer noted that he wasn't afraid to "break some eggs" in his former positions, and Stringer responded, "You broke your own eggs" with the prostitution scandal.
The candidates did agree on some issues.
The comptroller oversees $130 billion in pension fund assets. Spitzer and Stringer said they hoped to condense the five funds into one. Both said they believe the minimum wage should be raised.