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Republican NYC mayor hopefuls spar in final debate

Published on NewsOK Modified: September 8, 2013 at 7:39 pm •  Published: September 8, 2013

NEW YORK (AP) — The top two Republican candidates for New York City mayor debated Sunday for the last time before the party primary on topics including the New York Police Department's policies and the city's handling of the emergency response on 9/11.

In often testy exchanges, former public transit chairman Joe Lhota accused grocery store magnate John Catsimatidis of being a billionaire businessman with no government experience while Catsimatidis countered that Lhota was a bureaucrat out of touch with New Yorkers.

"I've served in government in different ways that I choose not to talk about," said Catsimatidis. "I've also served in the (Greek Orthodox) church, and if you talk about church politics, that's much worse than New York City politics."

Catsimatidis described Lhota as "more of a technical person," contrasting that quality with what he called his own visionary capability.

"I've been a CEO for 44 years, and I am used to hiring people to perform technical tasks. I've hired hundreds of people with the qualifications of Joe," he said. He added, "But you need a visionary, you need somebody that creates."

Lhota said he does have new ideas for the city that will benefit everyone from the homeless needing shelter to children whose schools are failing.

"A school that's failing our children, it is immoral to keep it open," he said, adding that he wants to involve more parents in education.

Lhota has had a consistent lead in polls over Catsimatidis, who blanketed the airwaves with ads in recent weeks. Low Republican turnout is expected in Tuesday's primary in a city where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans by 6 to 1.

The two men traded barbs and expressed exasperation during the heated debate, with Lhota often shaking his head as Catsimatidis spoke.

Asked whether they had questions for each other, Lhota stared straight ahead and declined to ask his opponent anything.

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