NEW YORK - Mayoral hopefuls vying for the Democratic nomination faced off in a televised debate Tuesday night.

The showdown got heated at times, with many of the candidates urging Anthony Weiner to step out of the race in the wake of his latest sexting scandal. They say he's a distraction from the issues New Yorkers care about most.

Public advocate Bill de Blasio emerged as the front-runner prior to the debate for the first time in this campaign, according to the latest Quinnipiac University poll. Former leader Christine Quinn fell into second place, Bill Thompson rounded out the top three, and Weiner hung on to fourth.

The primaries will be held Sept. 10, but if no candidate claims 40 percent of the votes, the top two will advance to a runoff election three weeks later.

The deadline to register to vote in the primaries is this Friday.