With cross talk, barbed remarks and few moments of camaraderie, Mayor Bill de Blasio and his main Democratic opponent, Sal F. Albanese, engaged in a bitter debate on Wednesday before an occasionally rowdy audience less than three weeks before the primary election.
Their encounter, at a packed theater space on the Upper West Side, was the first of two Democratic debates to be held before the vote on Sept. 12. It provided the most contentious moments of a 2017 race for City Hall that, with few established political figures running and only one Republican candidate, has at times struggled to find a pulse.
Mayor Bill de Blasio will have to appear in two debates before the September primary now that his chief Democratic rival, Sal F. Albanese, has crossed the threshold of fund-raising and campaign spending needed to qualify.
Mr. Albanese, according to his most recent campaign filing, which was disclosed Friday, has so far raised more than $191,000 and spent almost the same sum. The debates, which will take place on Aug. 23 and Sept. 6, are organized by the city’s Campaign Finance Board under its rules for disbursing matching funds. To meet the requirements, candidates must raise and spend at least $175,000.
There were plenty of seats on the uptown C train as it creaked its way from Pennsylvania Station to Times Square. But one patron, standing 6-foot-5 in a shiny blue suit and clutching a leather folder, opted to stand.
No one offered much of a greeting to the man, Mayor Bill de Blasio, as he rode quietly in the train’s final car, traveling with one staff member and a small security detail.