Toronto's Rob Ford Dodges Raunchy Scandals in Mayoralty Debate

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Just as he has played rope-a-dope to stay alive during an unfolding political scandal, the disgraced politician refused to address drug or alcohol problems in front of rivals.

TORONTO -- He wasn't caught checking his BlackBerry or yawning, but Toronto mayor Rob Ford did his best to dodge surprisingly few questions from rival candidates over his raunchy lifestyle and political scandals during a mayoralty debate Wednesday.

"He has become an international embarrassment, because he really isn't a good role model for my grandchildren and your kids," challenger Olivia Chow told Ford during a tense two-hour debate, the first of the mayoralty election season.

Aside from Chow, no other mayoralty challenger pointed a finger at Ford nor talked about the endless revelations about his private life, which have made the mayor a global celebrity and the butt of punch lines on late-night U.S. talk shows.

So rather than talk about the endless media coverage over his admissions of illicit drug and alcohol abuse, Ford focused instead on his accomplishments at City Hall with clipped phrases and responses.

"I have saved the taxpayers a billion dollars," the mayor insisted time and again to appeal to the city's Tea Party following.

Ducking jabs was made easier by Ford's rivals in the mayor's race, who refused to explicitly talk about his admitted drug and alcohol abuse and a police investigation into his drug underworld associations.

It took a question from a TV reporter, Cynthia Mulligan of CityNews, that mentioned crack cocaine smoking to draw a response from Ford that quickly returned to his usual message track about a gravy train at City Hall.

"People have heard the story. It's rewind, rewind, rewind. People know my track record. They can go to sleep at night knowing their tax dollars are being watched," Ford answered.

"I'm not going to get personal. I'm going to talk about my record of achievement," he added.

Post-debate, a smiling Ford said he looked forward to future face-offs with his mayoralty rivals.