Cincinnati City Hall.
On Tuesday evening, months of fierce election campaign came to a head when Cincinnati mayoral candidates, Aftab Pureval and David Mann, debated at Xavier University’s Cintas Center.
With the elections only a month away, many believe the debate was a defining moment for the Mann and Pureval candidacies, whose achievements define them in the eyes of potential voters.
Both candidates asked themselves difficult questions, many of which hit the core of public concern.
The 81-year-old man was defiant, saying he was “blessed with good health” and compared his long tenure with the “youth and inexperience” of his competitors. He said the public wants someone “who understands how the city council works”.
Pureval spoke out against the allegations of his supposed great ambitions, claiming that if he were elected mayor it would be “the most important thing I ever do, period”.
“I have no experience in town hall, but I think that’s a good thing,” said Pureval.
Some have called this election uninteresting because they lack the confrontation and poison of major political campaigns. Neither Mann nor Pureval disagreed and accepted their relative ingenuity as a good thing.
“It was our intention to have a substantial and positive campaign,” said Pureval.
Even so, Pureval claimed Mann had no vision for Cincinnati and said he was “not sure yet” what Mann’s vision for the city was.
In turn, Mann said Pureval’s work as the Hamilton County court clerk was not “terribly important,” minuscule in size and scope, to the work Mann did as a councilor and former mayor.
Pureval’s response was to mention the recent city hall corruption scandals, saying, “Four of your colleagues have been charged with corruption,” adding, “Cincinnati needs to get better.”
The debate was full of corruption and both candidates raised the issue at length.
“It hurts me, it annoys me,” said Mann of his colleagues’ charges.
But Pureval was unimpressed by Mann’s answer. He claimed the town hall needed “courageous leadership” with a solid division between elected officials and developers.
“There will be a light line between the politicians and the professionals,” said Pureval.
As in all major American cities, race is an unwavering issue in Cincinnati, even more so after the death of George Floyd and subsequent protests in 2020.
Pureval said Cincinnati is “still held back by the challenges of a bygone city,” stressing that “racial justice and racial justice will be a priority of mine.”
Linking both issues to another aspect of his platform, housing, he said black women would be disproportionately displaced during the pandemic.
Mann didn’t answer the question directly at first, instead turning to how much Cincinnati had improved under the leadership of Mayor John Cranley.
Mann claimed Pureval did not have a substantive plan for racial justice. “I don’t know what he’s up to,” said Mann.
As a result, development agreements and their link to recent political corruption scandals were another important topic that Pureval relied heavily on.
“If people don’t trust their guides, they won’t move here,” he said. “If we don’t solve this corruption problem properly, Cincinnati will not grow.”
Mann acknowledged that changes needed to be made but neglected the premise of the question. “We mustn’t forget how well the city has grown over the past ten years,” he said.
Police reform, another issue that preoccupied many Cincinnatians, sparked violent reactions from both candidates.
Pureval described his dismay at the wave of gun crime that has plagued Cincinnati. “Gun violence has just increased shockingly in our city and across the country,” he said.
“If there are bad people in our community who hurt good people, they must be held accountable,” said Pureval, but suggested a more collaborative form of policing.
Mann considered Pureval’s proposals “unrealistic”.
“Many of our officers are excellent at dealing with people,” said Mann. “I am offended by [the] Indication that our police work has somehow deteriorated. “
Mann steadfastly supported the Cincinnati Police Department and said he was “proud of our officers.”
At the end of the debate, both candidates ended their time with statements calling for voters to act.
“David Mann thinks everything is fine,” said Pureval. “What we offer is a bold, diverse vision for the future of Cincinnati.”
Mann ended on a combative note, however, saying of his long history of success in Cincinnati politics, “I’m proud of that,” reiterating that Pureval has neither the experience nor the ability to run a big city.