CIVIC CENTER — He will break you, City Hall.
Struggling mayoral candidate Joe Lhota compared himself to Sylvester Stallone's underdog character Rocky Balboa to Bill de Blasio's frontrunning Soviet bruiser Ivan Drago from "Rocky IV" during Wednesday night's final mayoral debate.
Speaking of de Blasio's prior comments linking Lhota to the work of the GOP party nationwide, Lhota said he was more of the underdog.
“These comments about attaching me to the national Republican Party, it reminds me of that boxing match between Rocky and Drago,” said Lhota, referring to the classic Cold War battle.
“I mean, quite honestly, we know what happened in that match — the underdog won,” Lhota said. “New York City loves an underdog. I am that underdog.”
The debate on in the debate, Sandy made her presence felt, with both de Blasio and Lhota praising the Bloomberg administration’s current and future resiliency plans, even as both of the candidates chastised the city for its immediate response to the storm.
“The city was not fully prepared for what happened a year ago,” Lhota said during the debate. “The lack of preparation, the lack of planning, for me, is something that needs to [not] happen.”
“What we’ve learned is, we need to prepare people on the ground in advance,” de Blasio said.
The warm feelings were short lived, however, as both candidates reiterated their differing positions on policing practices and divergent economic visions for the city.
The first flashpoint between the candidates came during a back and forth over the role of charter schools in the city. After de Blasio responded to a question by railing against the Bloomberg administration’s education policies, Lhota, a champion of charter schools, lost his cool.
“I don’t understand why he gets to rebuttal to then say nothing but what Mike Bloomberg did. I’m not Mike Bloomberg and I’m not going to continue what Mike Bloomberg’s done in education,” Lhota said. “It’s really unfair that you use your opportunity to run against Mike Bloomberg.
“You’re running against me. Let’s talk about what I want,” Lhota said.
De Blasio went on to say he focused on the Bloomberg years because he felt Lhota hadn’t addressed a whole host of pressing education issues connected to the current administration.
“I’ve heard him talk a lot about charters and the five percent of kids in charters,” de Blasio said, himself becoming frustrated. “I’d like the debate in this town to shift to the things that really will fix education for the long term.”
The candidates continued to clash over their economic plans, with de Blasio continuing to defend his plan to tax higher income earners to pay for universal pre-k and expanded afterschool programs for middle school kids. Lhota has argued that middle class New Yorkers would also see a tax increase under a de Blasio administration.
Lhota himself was put on the defensive over his plans to lower corporate taxes in the city for big companies that generate jobs. De Blasio called the plan “classic trickle-down economics.”
“I think that’s a classic Republican plan,” de Blasio said.
For Lhota, the debate was one of only a few remaining opportunities to sway a skeptical public. According to the latest Quinnipiac University poll released Wednesday, Lhota continued to trail behind de Blasio by 39 percentage points, with only 26 percent of likely voters surveyed saying they intended to back the Republican candidate in next week’s election.
In a rare moment of levity, both candidates were asked what musical act they would have perform at their inauguration ceremony. Neither hesitated before giving their answers.
“The Allman Brothers,” Lhota said.
“Bruce Springsteen,” de Blasio said.
The general election will be held next Tuesday, November 5.