(CNN) – The New York City showdown for mayor Wednesday night was Republican Joe Lhota’s last chance to turn the tide against his Democrat opponent Bill de Blasio.
The final debate before the Nov. 5 mayoral election covered a range of topics – from tax reform, to racial profiling, to how much each candidate spent on groceries per month.
A Quinnipiac poll out Wednesday shows de Blasio with a strong lead of 65% to 26% over Lhota, with a majority of New York City voters saying the latter’s message is too negative.
Hosted by The Wall Street Journal, NBC New York, Telemundo Nueva York and the New York City Campaign Finance Board, the debate focused on crime prevention and how to strengthen the New York City economy.
Lhota was once the right-hand man to Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and was former chairman of the New York City Metropolitan Transportation Authority.
De Blasio, New York City's public advocate, claims higher approval ratings, but New Yorkers are split over whether he can keep his promises.
Those promises include a plan to provide universal pre-kindergarten and after- school for middle schoolers. The plan would rely on increased income taxes for the wealthy and faces skeptics who think such reform will not pass in an election year.
When asked if he had a Plan B, de Blasio said that real leaders rely on their vision, not Plan Bs and Plan Cs.
Lhota quickly hit back with what he sees as de Blasio’s lack of management experience.
“He’s never managed anything but political campaigns and a public advocate’s office. Let me tell you, real leaders not only have a Plan B but a Plan C. What you really need to know is what is your goal and how do you achieve it,” Lhota said in one of the more heated moments of the debate.
The debate also delved into recent allegationsof racial profiling against New York stores Macy’s and Barneys. Black customers say the New York City department stores targeted them because of their race.
Both candidates said they did not have enough information to say who was at fault, but agreed that the accusations were alarming.
“Shopping while black should not be a situation in which someone gets arrested or detained because somebody thinks they don’t have the wherewithal to pay for the belt involved,” Lhota said.
“That’s not allowable in the city of New York in the year 2013. So whoever is responsible, there has to be a consequence and it has to be stopped right away,” de Blasio responded.
A debate over ‘stop-and-frisk’ also examined racial profiling in New York City.
In August, a federal judge ordered that the NYPD’s controversial stop-and-frisk policy be altered, finding that it violates the Constitution in part by unlawfully targeting blacks and Latinos.
“We need to get control of ‘stop, question and frisk,’ no doubt about it, but it is a tool that must continue,” Lhota said in a defense of the practice.
De Blasio highlighted the finding that 90% of people stopped by the policy are released without an arrest. However, as he’s stated before, he does not support throwing out the policy completely.
He said it is a “valid police tactic when done constitutionally,” but that crime prevention will rely on overhauling the relationship between the community and the police force.
“What we need to fix is the problem, the rift between police and community in a lot of our neighborhoods that happened because of the unconstitutional use of stop-and-frisk,” de Blasio said. “We can fix that and that will make us safer for the long run.”
However, Lhota criticized de Blasio’s approach when it comes to crime prevention.
“I actually believe that Bill’s proposals are quite naïve and they actually turn us back to a time that we don’t want to go to,” Lhota said.
Lhota also made a pitch to New Yorkers to vote for him as the underdog, saying he will bring the experience and knowledge necessary for the job.
For de Blasio, his final pitch reflected his vision of New York City, saying a mayor “is supposed to be a unifier, help ease the tensions in the most diverse city in the world.”