The candidates for public advocate sparred with one another in tonight’s debate on NY1. Mark Green went after rival Bill De Blasio’s campaign finance record. The milder-mannered Brooklyn councilman tried to portray Green as being removed from local politics and the changes the city has undergone over the past eight years.
After a cordial start, Green went belligerent early. The Air America radio talker asked De Blasio pointedly if De Blasio would disclose his letter to the city’s Conflict of Interest Board regarding issues surrounding contributions and payments made from non-profits to which he had allocated money as a councilman. Later Green asked whether De Blasio would disclose his contract with Data and Field Services — the for-profit branch of the Working Families Party — and went so far as to suggest that de Blasio might be publicly investigated after the election.
De Blasio countered that Green’s allegations were inaccurate and offensive. He stood his ground, but avoided answering detailed questions. He pointed out that the city’s Campaign Finance Board had awarded him tens of thousands of dollars in matching funds — something the organization wouldn’t have done if it found that he’d evaded campaign finance laws. He also implied that Green was making too much out of an issue that had already been resolved: the Conflict of Interest Board had cleared him of any illegal conduct. Finally, he said he was planning to disclose more details “to his friends at the Daily News.”
Green said De Blasio had allocated several million dollars to various community groups — only to have some of the groups give over $200,000 in campaign contributions. “Maybe they were coerced, I don’t know,” he said. De Blasio said he stood by his record and has abided by all laws, and that the groups had the right to be citizens (Implying, we think, that they have the right to support whoever they want).
Green is clearly a gifted speaker — his rhetoric is sharp and persuasive, but he has been criticized for making empty jabs and attacks. A less eloquent but far more humble-seeming De Blasio tried to make him Green appear detached from the realities of local politics, at one point asking Green if he knew exactly how many day care centers the mayor was planning to shut down last spring (Green didn’t know, but it appears to be a small point).
A Daily News reporter, Celeste Katz, pointedly asked Green why his website says he invented 311 when he absolutely didn’t come up with the idea.
Some odd facts came out about each of the candidates. Green doesn’t have a library card and hasn’t had a beer over the past week. Neither candidate has cooked dinner for their family in the past week. Neither would publicly insult David Paterson. Both candidates support the Nets having a stadium in Brooklyn.