(CNN) - New York City's Democratic candidate for mayor would take the city from its now-plummeting crime numbers back to the rampant violence of the 1970s, his Republican opponent charges in a new online ad.
Republican Joe Lhota, a businessman, former chair of the city transit authority and deputy mayor under Republican Rudy Giuliani, has repeatedly accused Democrat Bill de Blasio of being soft on crime, lambasting de Blasio's reaction to a recent incident in New York involving a large group of motorcycle riders who chased and beat the driver of an SUV.
"De Blasio's response to violent biker gangs? Visit motorcycle clubs and talk to bikers?" the video ominously charges.
The ad comes a day after de Blasio's campaign released its own online video called "Joe Lhota's tea party politics," keeping with the city public advocate's theme of trying to paint Lhota with broad Republican brush strokes of allegiance to conservative ideology. Lhota has resisted those charges and instead taken several moderate stances in the overwhelmingly Democratic city, saying that he is pro-abortion rights and supports same-sex marriage.
Lhota, who is trailing far behind in public opinion polls, made the same weak-on-crime charge Tuesday night at the first of three debates between him and de Blasio.
In the showdown, de Blasio was quick to dismiss Lhota's claims on his stance on crime, particularly in relation to the motorcycle incident.
"My opponent likes to distort the situation. You know, what I said after this recent horrible incident with the motorcycles is, the NYPD will crack down, should crack down on the spot," de Blasio said at the debate.
"But also send a very clear message to all these organizations, that anything they try in the future will lead to real consequences," added de Blasio. That message "needs to be given very sternly by our NYPD officers to these individuals."
Lhota has tried to paint himself as much harder on crime, defending the controversial stop-and-frisk policing tactics championed by outgoing independent Mayor Michael Bloomberg. He has argued that the tactic is essential to public safety and needs to be better explained to communities. A recent court ruling deemed the tactic unconstitutional.
While the Lhota attack ad minces no words about de Blasio's "recklessly dangerous agenda on crime," Lhota was less firm on it Tuesday.
Lhota was asked directly whether the city would be less safe under de Blasio, who is poised to become the city's first Democrat elected mayor in two decades.
"It might be less safe with him because he's untested," Lhota said in response.