NEW YORK -- Joe Lhota, a Republican candidate for New York City mayor, disagreed on Sunday with Mayor Michael Bloomberg's incendiary comments that the leading Democratic candidate is running a racially charged campaign. But Lhota agreed with Bloomberg that Bill de Blasio, the city's public advocate, has been divisive in his quest for the Democratic nomination by promising to reduce economic disparity between the haves and have-nots.
At the final Republican mayoral debate on WNBC on Sunday, Lhota was asked about Bloomberg's comments to New York magazine in which the mayor said that de Blasio has engaged in "class warfare" and is "using" his biracial family to appeal to voters.
Lhota disagreed with Bloomberg's take on de Blasio and race, but echoed the mayor's comments on class.
"I don't think Bill de Blasio is running a racially motivated campaign. However, I have said I do believe he's running a campaign based on class warfare," said Lhota, a former deputy mayor under Rudy Giuliani. "Instead of talking about a tale of two cities, why don't we be positive about what we're doing?
"I don't want to be a mayor who separates people apart," Lhota added. "There's no room in this city for racial divisions. There's no room in this city for division whatsoever."
The final Republican debate before Tuesday's primary also featured John Catsimatidis, a billionaire grocery store owner and real estate developer. Catsimatidis sided more evenly with Bloomberg's assessment of de Blasio, who is leading his Democratic opponents in the most recent polls.
"I know [de Blasio] as a friend. He is radical and he is wrong," said Catsimatidis. "Some other candidates many years ago tried to say 'a tale of two cities.' This is one city. We all work together. We all live together. We should not tear apart our city with that kind of action."
The most recent Quinnipiac poll showed Lhota leading Catsimatidis 48 percent to 24 percent among Republicans, though 17 percent of GOP voters in New York remain undecided.
Later in the debate, Lhota faulted Bloomberg for telling New York magazine in the same interview that it would be a "godsend" if more billionaires moved to the city, because they would pay taxes that fund programs for the poor.
"I don't want to get into class warfare like other people in New York," Lhota said. "[Bloomberg] could have chosen different words."
Though he disagreed with the three-term mayor's word choice, Lhota essentially agreed that it's the burden of the wealthy to pay for programs serving the poor.
"It's both a financial reality and class warfare. It's the same as saying 'a tale of two cities,'" Lhota said, alluding again to de Blasio's campaign theme.
Watch footage from the debate below:
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