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Eliot Spitzer, Scott Stringer spar at comptroller debate

City Comptroller candidates Scott Stringer, left, and Eliot

City Comptroller candidates Scott Stringer, left, and Eliot Spitzer prepare for a debate at CUNY Graduate Center in Manhattan. (Aug. 12, 2013) Credit: Anthony Lanzilote

Eliot Spitzer left New York State government in "chaos" when he resigned in 2008 because of a prostitution scandal, his Democratic rival for New York City comptroller, Scott Stringer, charged in a debate Monday night.

Spitzer seized on what he said was Stringer's thin record from 12 years in the state legislature and eight years as Manhattan borough president.

The candidates sought to make the most of each other's perceived vulnerabilities -- that Stringer hasn't been well known by voters and that Spitzer is most famously remembered for his downfall -- at their second televised debate, this one hosted by the city Campaign Finance Board, WNYC and NY1 among other sponsors at CUNY's Graduate Center in midtown Manhattan.

"What mark has he left on public policy?" Spitzer asked. He said Stringer has run a negative campaign based on attacks, "because the public doesn't know what -- if anything -- he's done."

Spitzer, though a "celebrity" to voters, was known for scandal and for betraying the public's trust, Stringer charged. "You just don't know wrong from right," Stringer told him.

Stringer, seeking to overcome Spitzer's 9-percentage-point lead in polls, attacked the former governor for funding his campaign with his family's real estate fortune.

"The reality is that your campaign is about coming in and trying to buy an election," Stringer said.

Spitzer has spent $2.5 million so far on his comptroller bid, according to his filings. Stringer, a participant in the city's public financing program, has spent $853,000. Cash spent on his behalf by two super PACs, ForwardNY and Progress NYC, has totaled $87,900, filings show.

Spitzer said Stringer was indebted to special interests, including the "allies on Wall Street and in the political plutocracy" who had filled his campaign war chest.

Spitzer told Stringer that, while he fought Wall Street abuses as state attorney general, "you sat on your hands and played nice with the establishment, the same establishment that's contributing millions of dollars in independent expenditures to you."

Stringer said Spitzer had spent five long years on the sidelines after "resigning in disgrace," leaving Gov. David A. Paterson with a deficit and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo to clean up the mess.

"There was chaos," Stringer said. "A lot of people got hurt, people in our city struggled, because of the budget deficit you left."

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