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Candidates come out swinging in mayoral debate

Election slated for May 19

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A heated mayoral debate wrapped up at Florida State College in Jacksonville Wednesday night where candidate Lenny Curry went head to head with Mayor Alvin Brown.

The two candidates came out the gate challenging one another. The mayor opened up by accusing Curry of lying and denying that Jacksonville is going in the right direction, even telling Curry that he wasn't qualified for the job.

"Lenny Curry has been lying about what Jacksonville is and what we've accomplished. And also he's been really denying the fact that Jacksonville is going in the right direction," Brown said.

Curry responded by saying he has not appreciated Brown's negative ads and said he has all the experience he needs as a small business man to take Jacksonville to the next level.

"The only messaging that you're running right now is negative. I'm running positive visionary messaging of where I say Jacksonville can go, and will go and I'm incredibly optimistic about it," Curry said.

One of the big topics at the debate was making Jacksonville not only a destination city, but seeing more jobs and businesses pour into the city.

Curry said that in the last four years, 120,000 people have lost their jobs and that the city was 50 on a list for flourishing cities for business.

The mayor rebutted saying that during his term unemployment has been cut in half and that he's brought in 36,000 jobs.

Incentivizing small business growth was just one of the main topics discussed with the bigger topics, and the ones that sparked the most emotion from both candidates, being gangs, violence and crime.

Brown said the sheriff has a $400 million budget with 3,000 employees, but that the sheriff has failed to add more officers to the force.

"Curry says that he would put 147 cops on the street. I've been working on prevention and intervention for the last four years. Working with a nonprofit community, launching programs like learn to earn, summer jobs, the mayor mentors. I'm out in the neighborhood with community empowerment days taking the provider right to these families. I know what it means to lose a loved one," Brown said.

Curry snapped back and said the 147 officers he was talking about were cut during Brown's term, and the sheriff's budget is crippled, because the mayor hasn't taken care of the pension problem.

"I said that my top priority was public safety. Every person, every family, every neighborhood will be safe. I've committed that my top budget priority will be reinstating the 147 policeman that were cut," Curry said.

Early voting is currently under way in Jacksonville and News4Jax is holding another mayoral debate on Thursday, May 14 at Jacksonville University before the general election on May 19.