Annissa Essaibi George came to the Boston mayoral debate Tuesday night ready to fight, blasting fellow city councilor Michelle Wu several times as the pair alluded to each other's fitness to serve as mayor.
The candidates' second head-to-head debate was by far the most heated yet, and both Essaibi George and Wu called one another out for lying, or using "false statements."
There isn't much time left in the race -- just two weeks left to make their cases to voters before the Boston mayoral election on Nov. 2 -- and recent polls show Wu with a wide lead.
The most recent poll, conducted by Suffolk University for NBC10 Boston and The Boston Globe, had Wu at 62%, more than double the 30% support for Essaibi George, and with 7% of respondents undecided. A MassINC/WBUR poll released last week had Wu leading by 32%.
The hour-long live mayoral debate was hosted by NBC10 Boston, Telemundo Boston and NECN, in partnership with the Dorchester Reporter and the Bay State Banner, at the NBCUniversal Boston Media Center.
Some of the most heated attacks came as debate moderator Latoyia Edwards asked about potential conflicts of interest.
Essaibi George was asked about a Boston Globe report from July that indicated that her husband was assisted by his wife's city council staff in a dispute with another developer. The article alleged several Housing and Development violations, and that Essaibi George could have recused herself and did not.
Essaibi George said that she had "no involvement in my husband's business and have filed a report with the Ethics Commission to clarify all that transpired."
Then she pivoted and pointed to a Boston Herald report from Tuesday that states Wu and her husband purchased a Roslindale multifamily home at about half the price of what it sold the year prior from Wu's Harvard Law School roommate.
Wu's college roommate now works for her father, Terry Considine, at a Colorado development firm. Considine is a prominent Republican politician and contributor to GOP causes, the Herald reported, and has donated $2,500 to her campaign.
"The people of Boston, the voters of Boston deserve to know about your relationship with Terry Considine, who has given you our campaign thousands of dollars," Essaibi George said. "A hatemonger, a man who ran for U.S. Senate and said terrible, racist and discriminatory things about people from Mexico. You need to disavow that."
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While running for Senate in the 1980s, Considine used a racial slur for immigrants from Latin America, according to The Washington Post. He reportedly later apologized.
Wu said that she and her college roommate purchased the property together, and added that they are the godmothers to each others children.
"There's absolutely no wrongdoing that happened here," Wu said. "I am willing and able to stand behind every single bit of the success and stability that my family has had because it has taken hard work. And I have been reporting every bit of our financial transactions over the years as a city councilor. And there's simply nothing here and I'm disappointed to see the the tactics that are being used."
When asked if she has any conflicts of interest of her own, Wu said, "My husband and I just own one piece of property. It is a two-family home that we live in."
Among the times the candidates accused each of other of lying was when they discussed implementing measures like the city adding 19 clinicians to Boston's crisis response protocols.
"I'm disappointed to see a pattern of false statements being made here. I'm proud that over the time on the City Council I've been consistent in pushing for reforms that are needed," Wu said. "There's a clear difference in this race between continuing the status quo of choosing to just try to nibble around the edges of the changes that we need, or truly ensuring that we are bringing community in to deliver the bold changes that are necessary and possible in this moment."
"You're taking credit for something that I've done as a member of the City Council," Essaibi George shot back. "It is my work, as a member of the Boston City Council, that led to having 19 clinicians that are working every day to respond to mental health crises across our city. That is not your work. Please don't take credit for it."
Wu countered that the effort was spearheaded by Ayanna Pressley when she served as a city councilor -- she's now a congresswoman representing Boston and some suburbs.
"I was proud to support the work that happened on the council in pushing for the number of clinicians to go from two to 19, and also to have been around before you join the council when then Councilor Ayanna Pressley led the charge on this," Wu said. "Getting even to 19 clinicians is nowhere near the scale of change that's needed. There are hundreds of thousands of residents in our city who are demanding a better response to crisis, who are reporting and coming and telling us that what's happening now the status quo is not working, it is not serving our residents."
The two candidates have been cordial throughout much of the race. They are colleagues and have worked together, and the day after they progressed from the preliminary round of the election, they embraced at City Council.
The candidates have called for outside groups to stay out of the race, but negative campaigning became a factor in the election this weekend.
On Sunday, a PAC comprised mostly of local labor unions released an attack ad about Wu. The same day, about 20 people approached Wu with flyers promising $100 gift cards for participating.
The flyers had been handed out at the city's troubled Mass. and Cass area -- another subject of Tuesday's debate -- according to the Wu campaign, and the candidate herself called it a "despicable" political tactic that manipulates city residents.
Essaibi George called the notion that the flyers could have come from her campaign "absolutely ridiculous" that distracts from the work she was doing.