NEW YORK CITY — The knives were out again Monday night when former Gov. Eliot Spitzer and Manhattan Borough President Scott Stringer met for their second debate, attacking each other on their Albany records and who was spending the dirtiest money in the race.
“Some of us stood up to the establishment, saying we are seeing structural failures in the financial markets,” Spitzer said about his tenure as attorney general and governor. “Case after case, where I had to stand alone because the political establishment and the Wall Street establishment who are funding your campaign independent expenditures, when they were sitting there and you were receiving their contributions, some of us were standing up for the middle class.”
Spitzer also attacked Stringer over his time as a state assemblyman, when he was part of "the most dysfunctional state legislature in the country."
“You talk a good game fighting for the middle class, but when it was on your watch...you dropped the ball and you had to leave,” Stringer said, calling Spitzer’s governorship a “failure" too focused on steamrolling his opponents.
“The job of comptroller is to work with people,” Stringer said. "This job is not about being the Lone Ranger or the sheriff."
The pair's first debate, on Friday, was just as bruising.
The candidates focused on how they were funding the election—Spitzer through his own real estate wealth, and Stringer through campaign finance, but benefiting from millions being spent by outside groups aiming to take Spitzer down.
“You say repeatedly that I'm trying to buy this election, Scott. I'm trying to keep up with you,” Spitzer said. “Keep up the money you’re going to spend and all the millions of dollars your allies on Wall Street and in the political plutocracy have said they’re going to spend.”
Stringer accused Spitzer of “acting like a Republican, not a Democrat” by refusing to participate in the city’s campaign finance system. “You’re the biggest real estate donor to yourself,” Stringer continued. “You are trying to destroy one of the best campaign finance systems in the country.”
The candidates also sparred on their approach to the city’s $126 billion in pension assets.
“I want to use the pension fund and invest it wisely and use it as a vehicle for change," Spitzer said, referring to the pension funds as “our money.”
“This is not ‘our money,’” Stringer countered. “This is the money of 650,000 retirees. You have to do this work carefully.”
At one point, Stringer accused Spitzer of being an absentee politician after he resigned from office who was more interested in his television career than what was going on in the city.
“You didn’t get your hands dirty,” he said. “You haven’t been there over the last five years.”
“Scott, I got my hands dirty for ten years as attorney general and governor,” Spitzer retorted.
With a smile, Stringer agreed: “That you did.”