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The first real battle for mayoral nominations—
One evening, two debates, eight candidates...

92nd Street Y and The New York Observer bring together all the major mayoral candidates to discuss crucial issues of both local and national importance. From public education to FEMA to gun control, this is your chance to find out what they really think—and what they would do if they are elected. Hear both sides, avoid the sound bites, get the full picture.

Democratic candidates: Sal Albanese, Bill de Blasio, John Liu, Christine Quinn and Bill Thompson

Republican candidates: John Catsimatidis, Joseph Lhota and George McDonald

Moderators: Ken Kurson, New York Observer editor-in-chief, and Kenneth K. Fisher, member, Cozen O'Connor

Welcoming remarks by Jared Kushner; candidate introductions by Joseph Meyer, CEO of the Observer Media Group

This event is approximately 2 hrs 15 minutes in duration.

Watch live online here!


WHAT DO YOU WANT TO KNOW? Submit your debate questions for consideration below.


Candidate Bios

(Click the names below to expand info.)

Bill de Blasio

From his early days as a City Hall volunteer, to serving on his local school board, to his current position as Public Advocate for the City of New York, Bill de Blasio has spent his life fighting to ensure every New Yorker—in every neighborhood through our five boroughs—gets a fair shot. Bill is committed to making sure every child gets a great education, to protecting our streets and our communities in every neighborhood, and to building a city where the middle-class and those striving to reach the middle-class can afford to live and thrive.

Bill has consistently championed the rights of middle and working class New Yorkers—by fighting to expand early childhood education, tenants’ rights and job opportunities for all New Yorkers.

Together with his wife, Chirlane, Bill is the proud parent of Chiara, a college freshman, and Dante, a high school sophomore. Having raised their children in Brooklyn and sent them to New York City public schools, both Bill and Chirlane have a firsthand understanding of the fundamental role parents and teachers share in educating the next generation—and of the importance in providing equal education opportunities in all city neighborhoods.

After graduating from NYU, Bill studied at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs. He began his career in public service as a junior staffer for New York City’s first African-American mayor, David N. Dinkins, and later became an assistant for community affairs at City Hall.

Bill then moved to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, working as Regional Director under then-Housing Secretary Andrew Cuomo, as New York and New Jersey’s highest-ranking official in the department.  As regional director, Bill fought for increased federal funding for affordable homes, expanded housing services for senior citizens and worked with Secretary Cuomo to turn around a scandal-scarred agency. At HUD, Bill continued his focus on tenants’ rights—which helped inform Bill’s landmark, citywide Landlord Watch List in 2010.

At HUD, Bill crisscrossed the Tri-State region, gaining a critical understanding of the diverse communities that make up the New York metropolitan area. In a region where city and state are so interdependent, Bill saw how invaluable the private sector could be in creating jobs in New York City, and how crucial it is for government to support small businesses.

In 1999, Bill joined District 15’s School Board in Brooklyn, where he championed early childhood education and parental involvement, and helped his district become the first to cap class size in first grade and establish universal pre-K programs.

In 2000, Hillary Clinton asked Bill to manage her historic campaign for the U.S. Senate. Working at the head of a vast grassroots operation, Bill helped re-introduce Mrs. Clinton to New Yorkers and deliver her message about prioritizing children and families, securing her a decisive victory in a highly competitive campaign.

Two years later, he started his service in the City Council, representing the diverse Brooklyn neighborhoods of Park Slope, Sunset Park, Boro Park, Carroll Gardens, Cobble Hill, Windsor Terrace, Red Hook and Kensington.

In his eight years on the City Council, Bill focused his efforts on improving public education, engaging parents, expanding affordable housing, and protecting New York’s middle-class and working poor. Bill won over $100 million in new investments in early childhood education, and wrote landmark tenants’ rights legislation to protect affordable housing and end landlord discrimination for everyday New Yorkers.

As head of the City Council’s General Welfare Committee, Bill reformed government programs to minimize bureaucracy and better serve middle and working-class families.

Under Bill’s leadership, the Committee passed the Gender-Based Discrimination Protection law to protect transgendered New Yorkers, and passed the Domestic Partnership Recognition Law to ensure that same-sex couples in a legal partnership could enjoy all the same legal benefits of domestic partners of heterosexual couples in New York City.  

During his tenure, Bill’s committee also passed the Benefits Translation for Immigrants Law, which helped non-English speakers access free language assistance services when participating in government programs.

Bill also helped pass the HIV/AIDS Housing Services law, improving housing services for low income New Yorkers living with HIV/AIDS.

Bill led the fight against Mayor Bloomberg’s backroom battle to overturn the will of voters and give himself a third term in office.

In 2010, Bill was sworn in as Public Advocate, the City’s second-highest elected office. Since then, Bill’s voice has been heard across our city, forcefully advocating for stronger representation and services for the millions of workers who represent the foundation of New York City’s economy. 

As Public Advocate, Bill helped stop thousands of teacher layoffs and saved good neighborhood schools that Mayor Bloomberg wanted to close. Bill helped protect firehouses that were on the budget chopping block, and fought for just compensation for brave First Responders who fell ill as a result of their heroic work in the days following 9/11.

Bill has fought to ensure that our government represents the needs of every New Yorker—from Midwood to Morningside Heights; from Bushwick to Bay Ridge. When the Department of Environmental Protection refused to address skyrocketing water bills, Bill held City Hall accountable and gave homeowners the tools to fight back.

He has worked to cut down on needless bureaucracy, hold city government accountable, and ensure that our elected officials use their resources to create good jobs and give parents a real voice in their children’s schools.

Bill knows that early childhood education is the best way to invest in our city’s future—and he has pushed tirelessly to make after-school programs and early childhood education a top priority in our city. Bill is committed to expanding these programs, and has aggressively fought against proposed budget cuts to these critical services.

His “Worst Landlords Watch List” publically identified landlords who took advantage of everyday New Yorkers, and pressured them to improve building maintenance and upkeep. Bill mirrored this tactic in “Open Government NYC,” a public database emphasizing City Council funding transparency.

Bill has been a forceful opponent of the corrosive influence of corporate money in politics. Dubbed the “Citizens United Avenger,” Bill has built a national coalition of elected officials to stop unlimited corporate money from corrupting our elections—even convincing JP Morgan, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley and Citigroup to pledge not to directly spend any corporate dollars in elections.

Bill has been a passionate voice for responsible investing, urging divestment from enemies like Iran who threaten America and our most trusted allies.

Bill knows we only succeed as New Yorkers if we leave no New Yorker behind. Bill knows we need new leadership that will fight for good, clean, strong, safe neighborhoods in which New Yorkers from all five boroughs can start businesses, raise their families and make our communities ever more vibrant.

Bill believes that New York City will grow strong as one city that rises together

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John Catsimatidis
John Catsimatidis has lived the American Dream.

John was born on the Greek Island of Nisyros in 1948 and 6 months later his parents emigrated to New York City in search of a better life. They settled on 135th Street in Harlem and his father found work as a busboy and his mother was a stay-at-home mom.

John is a true son of New York; he was educated in both the parochial and public school systems earning his high school diploma from Brooklyn Tech. John enrolled in New York University to study electrical engineering; going to school during the day and working in a small grocery store on nights and weekends to help his parents pay the bills. During his senior year, with just 8 credits remaining, John dropped out of NYU to work in the grocery business full-time.

By his 25th birthday he was already a success with 10 Red Apple Supermarkets scattered along Broadway on Manhattan’s Upper Westside.

Now, four decades later the Red Apple Group has evolved into a diversified corporation that has holdings in the energy, aviation, retail and real estate sectors and over 8,000 employees, with approximately 2000 located in New York City.

John and his wife Margo live on Manhattan’s Upper Eastside and are parents to 2 grown children; Andrea Catsimatidis Cox (Mrs. Christopher Cox) and John Jr.

John is a firm believer in “giving back” to the community and has been a strong supporter of the Police Athletic League for nearly 30 years. He serves on the Board of Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, the Hellenic Times Scholarship Fund and over the years served in a variety of volunteer positions in the Greek Orthodox Church.

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Joe Lhota

Joe Lhota, a Republican candidate for Mayor of New York City, has held a unique balance of leadership positions in both the public and private sectors. He has successfully led complex organizations while consistently exceeding the delivery of mission critical results.

Joe was an integral part of Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s core management team.  He was the City’s Budget Director in Mayor Giuliani’s first term and Deputy Mayor for Operations during the second term.  In 2011 and 2012 Joe was Chairman and CEO of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Prior to joining the Giuliani administration, Joe was an investment banker for 15 years.  He was an acknowledged leader in public finance and assisted in the financing of infrastructure projects throughout the United States.  Following the Giuliani administration, Joe held executive positions in the Cablevision Systems Corporation and the Madison Square Garden Company.

Joe is a graduate of Georgetown University and the Harvard Business School.  He is a trustee of the City University of New York. He was born in the Bronx, a son of a New York City police lieutenant and the grandson of a New York City firefighter and taxi driver.  Joe and his family live in Brooklyn. 

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John Liu

John C. Liu serves as the 43rd Comptroller of the City of New York, responsible for ensuring the City’s financial health.

Independently elected and sworn into office on Jan. 1, 2010, Comptroller Liu is charged with auditing the finances and performance of City agencies, reviewing City contracts, reporting on the state of the City’s budget and economy, marketing municipal bonds and serving as custodian and trustee of the New York City Pension Funds.

Since taking office, Comptroller Liu has sharpened the tools of the Comptroller’s office to make government more efficient and accountable to the people it serves. He has:

  • Elevated the audit function in the Comptroller’s office to its own bureau, giving it more power to aggressively root out waste and return needed money to the City treasury.
  • Elevated the contracts function to its own bureau while reining in City spending on technology contracts, including the over-budget CityTime automated-payroll system and a long-delayed 911 call center.
  • Worked with the City’s Office of Management and Budget to refinance high-interest-rate bonds, saving taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars over the life of the bonds.
  • Improved transparency with a new website “My Money NYC,” which provides unprecedented public access to information about all expenditures in the City budget – plus comprehensive pension data and webcasts of Pension Board investment meetings.
  • Established the Bureau of Economic Development to create sustainable opportunities for the economic growth and development of the City and its people.
  • Proposed a plan for “capital acceleration” that would speed up school construction and other vital capital projects that have already been approved – thereby creating jobs now, improving infrastructure and taking advantage of today’s historically low interest rates.
  • Proposed a landmark pension-investment reform that would simplify and modernize management of the New York City Pension System to ensure that it is best in class among peer institutional investors worldwide.
  • Increased efforts to eliminate disparities in government contracting opportunities for minority- and women-owned businesses. For example, by inviting competitive bids to manage a City bond issue, the office received more proposals and selected a minority-owned firm instead of a firm from the standard rotation.
  • Launched the “MWBE Report Card NYC,” an online, real-time record of money spent by City agencies with minority- and women-owned enterprises. 

Comptroller Liu served on the New York City Council from 2001 to 2009, representing District 20 in Queens, and headed the Council’s Transportation Committee. His accomplishments as a legislator included exposing financial irregularities at the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), shepherding bills through the Transportation committee designed to enhance administrative efficiency and enacting legislation ensuring equal access to City services regardless of language ability. Before joining the Council, he managed a team of actuaries at Pricewaterhouse Coopers.

Comptroller Liu is honored to be the first Asian-American elected to citywide office in New York. He was born in Taiwan and immigrated to New York with his family when he was five years old. He is a proud product of the New York City public schools, from kindergarten at P.S. 20 in Queens through graduation from the Bronx High School of Science. He is also a proud public school parent. Comptroller Liu earned his bachelor’s degree from the State University of New York at Binghamton in mathematical physics. He lives in Flushing, Queens, with his wife Jenny, and their son, Joey.

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George McDonald
George McDonald has dedicated his life to serving New York City and the people who call it home. Through a nearly 30-year career that exemplifies the power of combining business experience and public service, McDonald has helped to transform the streets of New York and improved the lives of hundreds of thousands.

After two successful decades as an apparel industry executive, he has spent the last 27 years employing innovative business models to create jobs and economic opportunities for low-income New Yorkers. As Founder and President of The Doe Fund, one of the country’s most celebrated nonprofit organizations, McDonald has proven that providing paid work opportunities to individuals can transform their lives for the better.

What began as a dream at the kitchen table with his wife, Harriet Karr-McDonald, The Doe Fund grew from a $1.5 million operation serving 70 individuals a day in 1990 to a $50 million organization serving 1,000 individuals each day. For more than 20 years, The Doe Fund’s nationally acclaimed paid work and training program, Ready, Willing & Able, has strategically addressed the ever-changing face of homelessness in New York, expanding to meet the needs of ex-offenders, homeless military veterans, fathers and young adults. Fueled by McDonald’s belief that “work works,” The Doe Fund and Ready, Willing & Able have helped more than 18,000 individuals transform their lives and the lives of the people they touch.

McDonald has utilized his passion, business savvy and private sector experience to launch additional innovative social enterprises that provide paid jobs and vocational training, offer valuable services to the community and generate substantial revenue to support program operations.

Since 1989, The Doe Fund has raised nearly $700 million from a diverse, mixed-market revenue structure; and has generated over $260 million in direct community and government benefits, including more than $100 million in work stipends paid directly to Ready, Willing & Able participants.

A champion of bipartisan criminal justice reform efforts that use employment-based strategies to reduce recidivism and the collateral costs of crime and incarceration, McDonald chaired New York State’s Independent Committee on Reentry and Employment in 2005. He currently sits on Governor Cuomo’s Work for Success Executive Committee, part of a statewide, cross-sector partnership working to increase employment opportunities for formerly incarcerated individuals.

McDonald has received numerous individual accolades, including the Manhattan Institute’s William E. Simon Lifetime Achievement Award in Social Entrepreneurship, a New York Post Liberty Medal, St. John’s University’s Spirit of Service Award and an Honorary degree from Hobart and William Smith Colleges.

Through his entrepreneurial spirit, tireless advocacy and effective leadership, McDonald has helped transform thousands of lives, creating meaningful opportunities for upward economic mobility, improving local communities and generating tangible social and financial outcomes for the benefit of all New Yorkers.

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Christine Quinn

Christine C. Quinn was overwhelmingly elected City Council Speaker by her colleagues, first in 2006, and again in 2010.  Over the last seven years she has proven herself to be a tireless champion of practical solutions in areas of importance to working New Yorkers – especially education, affordable housing and job creation. She has fought to eliminate unnecessary regulation and excessive taxes on small businesses, and worked to diversify the city’s economy, investing in growing job sectors like health care and food manufacturing. She has helped the city develop an economy of innovation through initiatives like the biotech tax credit and the creation of NYC Tech CONNECT, which helps technology entrepreneurs start new ventures in the five boroughs. She passed the Safe Housing Act, which has dramatically improved conditions in some of the city’s worst residential buildings, and the Tenant Protection Act, which allows landlords to be taken to court for harassing tenants or interrupting basic services. She has expanded the amount of full day pre-Kindergarten in New York City by nearly 4,000 seats, and her Middle School Task Force produced the definitive report on middle grades reform in New York City, with many recommendations being implemented in public schools. In addition, Quinn has presided over budget negotiations that have reduced government spending while still preserving core services like teachers, firehouses, police officers, senior centers and child protective services.

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William C. Thompson, Jr.

As Comptroller of New York City from 2002 through 2009, Bill Thompson was responsible for managing the finances of the nation's largest municipality and supervised a staff of 700 professionals. As a lifelong Democrat and the city's top financial watchdog, he oversaw the city's $100 billion pension fund and made crucial investments in affordable housing for lower- and middle-class families.

Because of a last-minute change to the city's charter revision law, Bill was given the opportunity to run for a third term in 2009. He chose not to violate the two-term limit put in place by the voters, announcing that he would run for Mayor of New York City instead. As the Democratic nominee, Bill was outspent 14 to 1 and still came within just a few percentage points of unseating a lavishly self-financed incumbent.

A product of New York City's public schools, Bill has a deep understanding of the needs of both students and educators. As the head of the Board of Education for five terms, he oversaw a school system with 1.1 million students and 130,000 employees. He has been a persistent champion of meaningful accountability, more extensive after-school programs, an expanded arts curriculum and higher standards of teaching.

More recently, Bill served as Chairman of the Hugh L. Carey Battery Park City Authority, and is also Chair of Governor Cuomo's Minority- and Women-Owned Business Enterprise Team, which seeks to promote economic opportunities and eliminate barriers for minority- and women-owned businesses.

In addition to his eight years of service as a citywide executive, Bill has valuable private sector experience. He currently serves as the Chief Administrative Officer and Senior Managing Director at Siebert, Brandford, Shank & Co. LLC, the nation's largest minority public finance firm, where he leads efforts to underwrite loans for schools, roads, bridges and infrastructure projects.

A son of Bedford-Stuyvesant who moved to Manhattan in 2008 after a lifetime in Brooklyn, Bill is proud of what he calls his dual citizenship. He lives in Harlem with his wife, Elsie McCabe Thompson, and two stepchildren. He is also the proud father of a grown daughter, Jennifer.

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