JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Alvin Brown and Lenny Curry gave their best pitches Thursday during the final televised debate before Jacksonville elects a mayor for the next four years.
Brown, a Democrat, and Curry, a Republican, faced off on the campus of Jacksonville University during the hour-long debate that aired on News4Jax.com.
Anchor Kent Justice opened the debate with a question fresh in the minds of voters less than four hours after two girls were shot while riding on a Duval County school bus: violent crime.
"Violent crime over the last several weeks has been heartbreaking. Even the violence that took place today. I met with many of the parents and family members of the victims and I had been working in these communities for a long time," Brown said. "It's important for us to focus on the causes of crime, the root causes, like abject poverty and poor education and a broken home.It takes many years to develop as a criminal. As mayor I have been focusing on investing in programs that would target at-risk youth to keep them off the street and prevent crime."
"Since the beginning of this campaign I have said my top priority would be the safety of every person, every family and every single neighborhood," Curry said. "I've said I will fund the right number of police officers and that I will invest in the programs to help at risk kids, after-school programs. But here's the reality: Over the last four years this mayor has been absent on this . There were members of his own party that have pointed out the Journey has been cut over the last four years. Those programs are the ones that actually help these at-risk kids."
In addition to questions forms by News4Jax staff and those submitted through social media, the candidates were given a chance to ask each other a question.
Brown asked Curry about missing two-thirds of the meetings of the Jacksonville Housing Commission between 2008 and 2012 -- the height of the housing recession and foreclosure crisis.
"It was an honor to serve on the commission," Curry replied. "In fact, at the time I had just started my own business. The recession hit us. We were working through the recession. We got through it successfully. And, in fact, at the time I spoke to then-Mayor Peyton and about my reappointment said, 'I had a hard time getting to all the meetings.' I was asked to stand for reappointment."
Curry used his question to ask Brown about how many times he met with Sheriff John Rutherford over the past year as the rate of violent crime and murder increased.
"I met with Sheriff Rutherford many times. We launched Operation Ceasefire together to focus on crime. We went right to Myrtle Avenue, where I served as chairman of Families of Slain Children before I became mayor. I lived in that neighborhood," Brown answered. "Sheriff Rutherford is a good man; I like him. But at the end of the day, he is sheriff and his job is to make sure he invests in putting officers on the street."
When Brown did not give specific number of times he met with Rutherford after Curry's follow-up question, Justice also pressed for specifics.
"I can't give you a number of times. ... It's not not how many times you have a meeting, it's the results you get from your meeting."
At the end of the night, each man was given time for their closing statements of the debate and the campaign.
Here's what I learned growing up," Curry said. "I learned hard work; I learned integrity; I learned accountability and I learned responsibility. I carry those values with me every single day. Here's what here's what you've heard over the course of this evening: The mayor's been out of the game; not accountable, not responsible for problems, for solving them or for leading towards a visionary end. I here tonight asking for four years. And I'm asking you to hold me accountable on solving the pension, economic opportunity for every person, expanded education for all kids, and make sure every person, every family, every neighborhood is safe."
"This election is not about me; it's about you. You need a mayor who can lay out a shared vision: opportunity for all. Not for one party; not for one side of town, but opportunity for all," Brown said. "God has blessed this city tremendously and I want to make sure that as mayor, that I live up to what I have been taught: honesty, integrity, incredibility. Making sure every kid in the neighborhood is safe. Creating opportunity for all. Making sure they can get a good education. I'm asking you for your support, your vote and your prayers. Let's take Jacksonville to the next level, four more years."
ELECTION 2015: Jacksonville Voter's Guide
Early voting continues through Sunday at 19 locations around Jacksonville, then all precincts will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday for voters to choose the mayor, sheriff and several city council members.
Channel 4 will rebroadcast both the mayoral debate and Wednesday night's sheriff debate on Saturday. The mayoral debate will air at 4 p.m. and the sheriff debate at 5 p.m. The debates can be watched in their entirety any time online.
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