Candidates Square Off in Mayoral Debate

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CLEVELAND -- Mayor Frank G. Jackson and local businessman Ken Lanci faced off in their first official debate at the City Club of Cleveland on Wednesday.

"The administration doesn't understand the issues of the children," said Lanci, 63, before a crowded ballroom.

Mayor Jackson fired back.

"The people of the city of Cleveland know one thing about me: that I care about them," said Mayor Jackson.

Jackson, 66, is seeking his third term as Mayor of Cleveland while Lanci announced his plans to run as a democrat in May. On Wednesday, Jackson said he has worked hard over the past two terms to position the city for a brighter future.

"In eight years, we have done that and now I am seeking another four years so that I can institutionalize that pathway to success," said Mayor Jackson.

The debate, which lasted approximately one hour, featured questions from a moderator and members of the audience, much of the time focused on the status of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District.

"I think it's disrespectful for the residents of Cleveland to have lived the last eight years with a failed school system," said Lanci. "You've had plans, you've implemented them. This is just another plan and this plan is not going to work."

Lanci previously ran unsuccessfully for Cuyahoga County Executive in 2010. On Wednesday, he accused Mayor Jackson of focusing on the downtown area while ignoring problems in the surrounding communities.

"If you look at the investments," said Mayor Jackson, "you will see that we probably doubled the amount of investment in downtown. It's probably doubled in the neighborhood."

"Mayor Jackson is a man of his word, he's honest, he does what he says he's going to do," said Harriet Applegate.

Al Porter, a Lanci supporter, disagreed.

"We cannot survive another four years on the same downward spiral. We need a businessman to run the city," said Porter.

"I am in it to win it and I'm not letting up. We're on a roll," said Lanci. "We have support by reverends, we have support by activists, we have support in the community."

A primary was not required since Jackson and Lanci, both democrats, are the only people running for mayor.

Election Day is Tuesday, November 5.