For those who like to keep score, there was no indisputable winner of Tuesday night’s debate among three candidates for New York mayor. But there definitely was a loser: any thoughtful New Yorker who sat through this excruciating talkathon and its 90 minutes of shedding heat and precious little light.
The event, carried by NY1 and WNYC, was an argument for scheduling future debates in a television studio without an audience. It was held instead at Symphony Space, a normally staid theater on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.
This time, spectators behaved as if they were at a wrestling match. They were loud and obnoxious (and for you cynics — no, those are not considered virtues in New York). Worse, the audience set the tone for a debate that was more truculent than necessary and less enlightening than desirable.
Anyone interested in specifics about the candidates’ priorities for the next four years came away disappointed. (These three, by the way, are not the only ones running for mayor, just those who met the requirements set forth by the debate organizers.)
Bill de Blasio, the Democratic incumbent, stuck to his scripted list of accomplishments without offering even a glimpse of what Act II might look like if, as seems likely judging from opinion polls, he is re-elected. His Republican opponent, Assemblywoman Nicole Malliotakis, had her own script, which boiled down to a lament that the city is falling apart in every respect, evidence to the contrary notwithstanding. And then there was Bo Dietl, a former police detective running as an independent who was, well, Bo Dietl. That is to say he was as leather-lunged as the audience, hurling insults at Mr. de Blasio at a pitch that started at 120 decibels and then took off.
It’s too early to say if the sparring changed any voter minds, but the candidates all seemed to accomplish what they set out to do. Mr. de Blasio cast himself as a leader in command of facts and figures. He wrapped himself in a New York Police Department whose rank and file has not always felt kindly toward him, while at the same time dismissing his opponents as Trumpites who’d be hostile to the city’s interests.