Laughter & Jeers at 'Final' Debate

Categories: On the Stump
So, what do we know now that the final CFB sanctioned primary debate is over, that we didn't know before last night's 60-minute showdown on Channel 4? Well, Anthony Weiner would vote for Virginia Fields if he weren't a candidate. And, as panelist Jorge Ramos asked, how are the candidates going to reduce class size if they don't get that Campaign for Fiscal Equity money from Albany? "We've got to get that money from Albany!" Fernando Ferrer replied. "We must get the money," echoed Virginia Fields. Ah, that solves it, then: If you don't get the money, just get the money!

Among the other questions and answers the candidates did have a chance to show substance and strength. Gifford Miller's pitch for his housing plan, which emphasizes preserving affordable units, was smooth. Weiner spoke with eloquence on growing poverty in the city, and Fields actually offered specifics (rather optimistic ones, though) on how the city's $4 billion budget gap might end up being smaller. Answering a query on bilingual ed, Ferrer made a strong case for dual language education, in which equal time is divided between English and the native tongue. Fields may have even made some news with her reference to "the number of young people who are rounded up every night" by the police, a claim she later pinned on Calvin Butts.

But that boring policy stuff was lost in a haze of rushed answers (Miller couldn't repress a guffaw when moderator Gabe Pressman told him to limit an answer to 25 seconds) and downright silly questions, like who the candidates would vote for if they weren't running, who their role models were, and whether they'd model themselves after Dinkins, Giuliani, or Bloomberg. "Frankly, it's a ridiculous question, with all due respect," Weiner replied. For more on that and other pressing issues, there's another debate on WABC tonight.

Of course, the big question on everyone's minds is will there be a runoff. "You know," said Ferrer after the debate, "it happens."


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