NEW YORK – The mayoral race took a nasty turn Saturday, with Democrat Mark Green hammering Michael Bloomberg's personal and public record and the Republican candidate blasting Green for running a smear campaign.
The allegations came as two polls showed Green and Bloomberg running nearly even with just three days before New Yorkers pick a successor to Republican Rudolph Giuliani. Earlier polls showed Green once held a lead of 20 to more than 40 percentage points.
A New York Times poll released Saturday had Green with 42 percent of likely voters, Bloomberg with 37 percent, and an unusually high 20 percent undecided.
The margin of error among likely voters in the Times poll was plus or minus 5 percent, meaning the gap between the two candidates was not statistically significant.
A Marist Institute poll released Friday showed Green supported by 46 percent of likely voters and Bloomberg backed by 42 percent. Twelve percent were undecided.
The margin of error was plus or minus 5 percentage points, meaning the race is about even.
Bloomberg, a political outsider, had been given little chance of victory in a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans 5-to-1.
Analysts attribute Bloomberg's rise in the polls to two things: He has spent more than $41 million on the race, much of it on television ads, and last week he won the endorsement of Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, who has been lauded for his leadership since the World Trade Center attack.
"Green has been hemorrhaging white votes, especially white Catholics lately, and that's because of Rudy," said Doug Muzzio, a Baruch College political science professor.
Green also is getting his name out, however.
On Saturday, he was given a rare chance by national Democratic leaders to give the Democrats' public radio response to President Bush's weekly radio address. Normally, the response is given by a member of Congress or a governor in the party.
During a campaign stop in Harlem, Green attacked the GOP candidate's record on a variety of topics. He accused Bloomberg of trying "to racially divide Democrats and this city," and of airing misleading campaign ads.
Bloomberg has flooded the airwaves with ads promoting his endorsement by Giuliani, and attacking Green for his long opposition to the popular mayor.
Green also accused Bloomberg of making comments that were "insensitive toward women," and said the billionaire media owner "doesn't have one accomplishment in public life."
Bloomberg said he wasn't surprised by Green's comments.
"Every time Mark Green gets into a close election, the smear stuff comes out," Bloomberg said at his campaign headquarters.