In the second of three debates last night, mayoral candidates Joe Lhota and Bill de Blasio locked horns in a feisty exchange that came to a boil when de Blasio accused Lhota of running a "race-baiting" campaign ad. He was referring to the "Can't Go Back" ad, which featured stolen photos depicting a crime-ridden NYC in the '70s and '80s, as well as last month during the Bloomberg administration, when a group of motorcyclists beat an SUV driver in broad daylight. Lhota has since pulled the ad, but we have it here:

"It’s race-baiting and fear-mongering, and you know it," de Blasio told Lhota last night, which really infuriated Lhota. Nostrils flaring, Lhota demanded that de Blasio explain exactly what is race-baiting about the ad. "There’s nothing race-baiting about it,” Lhota declared. “Don’t tell me I threw out the race card, because there’s nothing racial in there." Nope, nothing at all. Just a solitary old lady gripping a subway pole for dear life as a man whose race is insignificant stares in her direction:

The ad was riddled with mistakes and inaccuracies—the Nation reports that one black-and-white photo of a dead body on the street, for instance, was actually from last year. Multiple photos were used without the photographer's permission.

De Blasio declined to specify exactly what is race-baiting about the ad, saying, "[Lhota] can be as upset as he wants to be, but the bottom line is, his ad depicted images of dead bodies in the streets, of racial imagery." Lhota was steamed, and after de Blasio repeatedly criticized the Giuliani administration for dividing the city, Lhota snapped again, telling the Public Advocate he was "sick and tired of you impugning the integrity of Rudy Giuliani."

Lhota added that de Blasio's former boss, David Dinkins, "did more to divide this city. The reason he got thrown out is because he was divisive." This was a pointed attack on de Blasio's work as a City Hall aide under Dinkins during the Crown Heights riots. "Dealing with that riot that happened in Crown Heights was an unmitigated failure because information wasn’t being given to the people at the top," Lhota previously told the Daily News, blaming de Blasio for the city's slow response.

Lhota also warned viewers that a vote for de Blasio was a vote for a middle class tax raise, repeatedly insisting that any politician who tries to tax the rich ends up taxing the middle class. This got de Blasio miffed, and he asserted multiple times that his plan would only tax New Yorkers who make more than half a million a year, in order to pay for pre-K and after-school programs for all children. Lhota countered that the tax raise would never get through Albany, and that Governor Cuomo had called it "dead on arrival."

Perhaps the most substantive part of the debate came, once again, during a discussion about affordable housing. Lhota nailed de Blasio on his support for the controversial Atlantic Yards project, which was sold to a divided public on a promise of local jobs and affordable housing. Most of the jobs provided by Barclays Center so far have fallen short of a living wage, because many of the positions are part-time. And, as Lhota pointed out, there is still no affordable housing at the site.

Of course, there's no housing of any kind, so far. Atlantic Yards Report has a measured response:

Lhota, criticizing de Blasio's plan for universal pre-K, said, "He makes promises that he knows he can't keep," the moved to Atlantic Yards.

"The reality is, Bill de Blasio makes promises over and over that he can't keep. In Downtown Brooklyn, where we have a new athletic facility, Bill de Blasio was instrumental in making sure that that developer built affordable housing. [That was kind of a non sequitur] Well, it's been two years now since the Barclays Center has opened, and they're not even in the ground with affordable housing. Y'know why? Bill de Blasio keeps taking contributions from Bruce Ratner. Bruce Ratner actually paid for his 50th birthday party."

Wait a sec. The Barclays Center has been open one year, not two. They're way behind on the affordable housing, but the first building is under way.

De Blasio has surely avoided every opportunity to criticize the developer, but he sure isn't the main culprit. Ratner did help pay for that 2011 birthday party/fundraiser, but he was one of many hosts.

De Blasio responded, "On the question of affordable housing, I have fought for the kind of development that would maximize affordable housing for the city.... I am proud of the fact that that development, when it is done, will yield thousands of units of affordable housing for the people of Brooklyn and I'll make sure it happens."

"When it is done" is a rather long leash. As for making sure it happens, the Public Advocate really hasn't tried.

Also on the topic of affordable housing, moderator Maurice DuBois of WCBS asked the candidates how much an "affordable" two bedroom apartment should go for. After a long windup, de Blasio said between $1,000 - $1,500, while Lhota put the price at $1,250. The rental range offered by de Blasio was particularly striking in light of a Crain's story this week that showed he's renting out a Park Slope apartment he owns for $2,200.

The final debate will air next Tuesday, Oct. 29th, on NBC New York.