(CNN) - New York's gubernatorial debate lived up to its expectation that it would be political theater as Republican candidate Carl Paladino faced Democrat Andrew Cuomo for the first time in a debate in a race making headlines for its nasty tone.
But the two candidates delivered an unexpected headline: there were no fireworks between them.
There was, however, sparring from the other five candidates. Questions ranged from the state's projected $8 billion deficit to how to create jobs. And third party candidates took what opportunities they could to take jabs at the leading contenders.
Kirsten Davis, a former madam who wants to legalize prostitution, answered one question on taxes with a shot at Paladino, saying, "Businesses will leave this state quicker than Carl Paladino at a gay bar."
Charles Barron, a former Black Panther and city councilman, repeatedly took aim at Democrat Andrew Cuomo, saying he was selective when it comes to being tough on corruption. He said, "Asking Andrew Cuomo and Carl Paladino to end corruption is like asking an arsonist to help us put out the fires. It doesn't make sense."
Jimmy McMillan, a Vietnam vet and karate teacher brought levity to the stage at several points when he punctuated his comments by declaring, "Rent is too damn high," which is also the name of his political party.
Green Party Candidate Howie Hawkins made his case to eliminate tax cuts for the rich. At one point, Libertarian Party candidate Warren Redlich called Paladino "his own special interest." Paladino followed but didn't take the bait. He asked the moderator, "Is this a rebuttal?" He paused and went on to say, "Now the people of the state of New York, they're looking for something to hold on to."
Paladino seemed nervous at times. At one point during the debate, he left the stage to go to the restroom.
Cuomo, for his part, also didn't take the bait, ignoring the jabs aimed his way. He made his case to be governor, saying he knows the state "like nobody else on this stage". But he tried to distance himself from the state's dysfunctional government, saying, " I understand the disgust at Albany and I share it."
Cuomo's closing statement was slammed by Paladino campaign manager Michael Caputo who said, "The hollow rhetoric was just too damn high."
Democratic strategist Robert Zimmerman, who attended the debate, had a different take. "Andrew Cuomo showed why he should be governor and the rest showed why they should be on 'Saturday Night Live,'" he said.