A mayoral debate tonight turned ugly as one candidate accused another of growing up on welfare and also accused the moderator of calling her a socialist.
The Donald Trump-style rhetoric comes just a day after three candidates vowed to stop playing the victim card if elected. Noel Archbold, the presenter at the debate sponsored by the Roosevelt Island Association and headlined by Republican property manager Gifford Miller, began his questioning by calling potential Democratic candidate Inez Dickens “a socialist” before answering a question.
Dickens, a teacher and community organizer, was upset and grew more agitated as Archbold pressed on.
“I’m not a socialist! I’m a socialist, but I’m not a socialist,” Dickens said. “I’m a woman who grew up in the projects and this is something that we experienced here.”
Archbold tried to placate Dickens and insisted he was not implying that Dickens was a socialist but responding to a question of “character” and “hopes and aspirations.”
“No, I’m not. Are you? What evidence?” Dickens said. “I’m saying that I grew up in the projects and when I applied for public housing, my life choices would have been different if I weren’t on public assistance. And so what I’m saying is that, Ms. Archbold, it’s not exactly about the definition.”
Archbold then referenced last week’s debate, when Dickens appeared to reference her life on welfare by saying that while candidates are criticizing her for too much, they have not “noticed that I have been able to get health care. I have not received anybody calling me a welfare mother or a welfare candidate.”
“I have not received anybody calling me a Socialist,” Dickens said. “That’s just a nice-sounding name that’s not really describing it.”
“Madam Mayor, I’m looking to see a little bit more of the kindness and sense of history than the hard words,” Archbold told Dickens.
“Then please, sir, I’m going to stop with the socialism charge,” Dickens said.
“You want to bring me back to the past, Madam Mayor?” Archbold responded.
“We don’t need to talk about the past. I’m really tired of the trashing,” Dickens said. “I’m tired of the talking points, I’m tired of the negativity. I want to talk about the future.”