TAMPA, Fla. — Seven candidates vying to me the next mayor of Tampa took the stage at Hillsborough Community College's Ybor campus Wednesday night to take part in a televised debate.
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Spectrum Bay News 9's Holly Gregory served as moderator during the 90-minute debate, during which the candidates were asked questions on a variety of topics.
The candidates include former police chief Jane Castor, current councilman Harry Cohen, small business owners Michael Hazard and Topher Morrison, current councilman Mike Suarez, philanthropist David Straz, activist LaVaughn King and former commissioner Ed Turanchik.
Candidates were first asked to come up with three words that summed up their vision for Tampa.
"My three words are inclusive, sustainable and creative," said LaVaughn King.
"I would say vibrant, welcoming and resilient," added Harry Cohen.
David Straz and Mike Suarez talked about helping neighborhoods they feel have been ignored.
"We build a $35 million park in downtown Tampa and nothing is done in East Tampa," said Straz.
"I know every single one of the issues that are needed in each one of these neighborhoods," said Suarez.
Transportation a hot-button issue
The debate took a contentious turn when the candidates started discussing transportation. Former Police Chief Jane Castor questioned Ed Turanchik's leadership in that area.
"You know, he says that he is the "transportation guru" and everything he talks about is 30 years ago. He hasn't accomplished anything except to crush everyone else's plans," she said.
Later, Turanchik fired back at Castor when he was asked if he could pledge to keep current police chief Brian Dugan.
"I think he's done a good job. I think he's restored the credibility that was damaged by prior administrations," Turanchik said. "I think he reduced the racially discriminatory policing and arrest practices of prior administrations."
On a lighter note, Topher Morrison got laughs from the audience when it came to a question about police body cameras.
"Accountability prevents corruption, so if we want to prevent corruption, you know who really needs to be wearing the body cams? Politicians," he said.
Election Day is March 5. If no candidate gets more than 50 percent of the vote, the top two candidates move on to the April 23 runoff.
The new mayor takes office in May.
The debate will re-air on Spectrum Bay News 9 on January 12 at 7:00 pm.
Learn more about the candidates:
Jane Castor, former police chief
Harry Cohen, member Tampa City Council
Michael Anthony Hazard, small business owner
LaVaughn King, activist
Topher Morrison, small business owner
David Straz, billionaire philanthropist
Mike Suarez, member Tampa City Council
Ed Turanchik, former County Commissioner
- PREVIOUS STORY: Tampa Mayoral Candidates Engage in First Debate (Oct. 3)