Lhota challenges de Blasio to weekly debates in boroughs

Progressive leaders and institutions endorse Democratic mayoral candidate

Progressive leaders and institutions endorse Democratic mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio during a rally on the steps of Brooklyn Borough Hall in Brooklyn. (Sept. 12, 2013) (Credit: Charles Eckert)

Republican mayoral candidate Joe Lhota Thursday challenged Democrat Bill de Blasio to weekly debates until the election, as yet another poll showed Lhota trailing far behind his rival.

In an effort to bolster his candidacy, Lhota called on de Blasio to participate in debates in each borough, in addition to taking part in two October faceoffs mandated by the city's campaign finance laws.

"It's important that the people see the contrast between the two of us, the contrast in our approaches, the contrast in our philosophy," Lhota told reporters outside City Hall.

At a Bronx event Thursday night, de Blasio said the details would be worked out between the two campaigns, but did not commit to more debates. "I guarantee there will be a good number of debates; I look forward to them," he said.

Earlier Thursday, a Quinnipiac University poll found that de Blasio, the city's public advocate, would beat Lhota, a former transit chief and Giuliani-era deputy mayor, 66 percent to 25 percent.

Quinnipiac's director Maurice Carroll said 32 percent of the voters questioned had not even heard of Lhota. "His task clearly is to raise a lot of money and spend it to get known," Carroll said. "You gotta get known."

Lhota said there are advantages to being behind in the polls.

"I love being in the underdog position. . . . I'll be on the offense" until the Nov. 5 election," Lhota said, adding, "You'll see these polls change."

In the Quinnipiac survey, de Blasio topped Lhota on every issue except taxes. An equal number of voters, 36 percent, said taxes would go up under either candidate. Even on crime, voters, by a margin of 50 percent to 27 percent, said de Blasio would do a better job of protecting New Yorkers.

The survey found that 63 percent had a favorable view of de Blasio, but only 30 percent had a favorable view of Lhota.

Quinnipiac questioned 891 likely voters by landline and cellphone Sunday through Wednesday. The margin of error was 3.3 percentage points.

The de Blasio campaign had no comment on the poll results.

Earlier this week, a Wall Street Journal-NBC/4 New York-Marist survey showed de Blasio besting Lhota 65 percent to 22 percent.

Last night, Lhota took calls during a tele-town hall meeting on subjects ranging from the NYPD's stop-and-frisk tactic to education, housing and taxes.

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