Bob Brady and Tom Knox sparred heatedly over whether Knox's background in business gives him the credentials to be mayor of Philadelphia.
Michael Nutter took flak over his proposal to allow Philadelphia police officers in high-crime areas to frisk people they suspect of carrying illegal guns.
Chaka Fattah insisted that the next mayor should have a broad plan to break the cycle of poverty in Philadelphia.
And Dwight Evans defended the state takeover of the city school system, which he helped to engineer.
But the five heavyweight candidates for mayor took a more civil tone last night in the next-to-last of their televised mayoral debates. It was sponsored by The Next Mayor project, a partnership among the Daily News, WHYY, and the Committee of Seventy.
Unlike an angry exchange Friday night that Nutter compared to a World Wrestling Federation smackdown, the mayoral contenders generally were content last night to spar for points instead of launching haymakers.
The testiest exchange was between Congressman Brady and businessman Knox over whether Knox's experience in business made him qualified to be mayor.
Brady began to discuss the experience that he and the other elected officials brought to the race. Brady barely got out the words, "We have a record . . . " before Knox interrupted.
"But it's a bad record," Knox said. And he kept interrupting Brady as the congressman tried to continue.
"We make laws; he breaks laws," Brady said, referring to fines levied by the state of Maryland against one of Knox's insurance companies.
"He hasn't got a clue and he's never run anything," Knox replied. "My results are proven. I've been successful in every one of my businesses and I've got the bankroll to prove it."
There were also some pointed exchanges between Congressman Fattah and Nutter, with Fattah describing himself as the only one in this campaign - or past mayoral campaigns - to target poverty as a major issue.
Fattah has proposed a long-term lease of Philadelphia International Airport to private investors.
He says the deal would provide the city with as much as $160 million a year for programs to lift up the 25 percent of Philadelphians who live in poverty.
Nutter called the reduction of poverty "a worthy and achievable goal" but suggested he was working on it with a number of other moves such as tax reform and getting people back into the workforce.
"The congressman has one idea to address a massive problem," Nutter said. "If you're the mayor, you need more than one idea to solve big problems."
Evans, Fattah and Knox criticized Nutter's proposal to permit police officers to "stop and frisk" people for illegal weapons in high-crime areas.
"It's tantamount to martial law," said Knox.
"That is racial profiling," Evans said.
"It's not about race; it's about criminals," Nutter said. "No one has the right to walk the streets of Philadelphia with an illegal weapon."
He pointed out that one of his early victories in City Council was the creation of a police advisory commission to handle citizen complaints about police misconduct.
Brady got off the line of the night when the discussion turned to schools superintendent Paul Vallas, who is leaving for New Orleans after losing favor over massive school budget deficits here.
"He's a bean-counter," Knox complained. "We need an educator."