updated 3/28/2005 11:50:23 PM ET 2005-03-29T04:50:23

The two candidates for mayor relentlessly attacked each other Monday in their first televised debate, wrangling over issues from trust to traffic in caustic, sometimes personal terms.

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Mayor James Hahn repeatedly questioned whether voters could trust city Councilman Antonio Villaraigosa, depicting him as an indecisive, pandering leader with a record of damaging decisions in his days as a state Assembly speaker.

“People don’t trust you,” the incumbent declared of his opponent.

The councilman said Hahn’s was the most investigated administration in modern times, alluding to ongoing corruption investigations. At the same time, the city has made little if any progress on long-standing problems, including traffic, housing and schools, he claimed.

“We can’t afford four more years of corruption probes and stagnation,” said Villaraigosa, a Democrat, like Hahn.

Villaraigosa, noting three of four voters in the March 8 primary cast ballots for candidates other than the mayor, said: “That is the best testament to what people think about me, and what people think about the incumbent mayor.”

The testy, hour-long encounter was televised live on television station KNBC.

Hahn, seeking his second, four-year term, has sought to slow Villaraigosa’s momentum since the councilman finished as the top vote-getter with 33 percent of the vote in the primary.

Despite a well-financed campaign, Hahn was able to win only 24 percent of the vote in the primary, enough to force a runoff against Villaraigosa.

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