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In the first public debate among Little Rock's mayoral candidates ahead of the Nov. 6 election, four men vying for mayor distinguished themselves from one another on issues of race and institutionalized inequality.

The event, held on the Philander Smith College campus, also marked the first time a city commission has hosted a debate. It was sponsored by the Racial and Cultural Diversity Commission in partnership with the Social Justice Institute of Philander Smith College; the Anderson Center on Race and Ethnicity at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock; the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service; and the Arkansas Public Policy Panel. Candidates have faced off in forums this year, but had not before had the chance to publicly rebut one another's positions.

Four of the five mayoral candidates participated -- attorney and business consultant Baker Kurrus, 64; Democratic state representative Warwick Sabin, 41; bank executive Frank Scott Jr., 34; and writer and activist Vincent Tolliver, 51. The fifth candidate, marijuana decriminalization activist Glen Schwarz, 64, was said to be unable to attend.

An audience-submitted question called out Sabin and Kurrus, who are white, and asked how they know what Little Rock's black community needs, "considering that it appears that you just started visiting and talking to people in black communities." The other two candidates who participated are black.

"I don't know who asked that question, but they don't know me very well," Kurrus said, explaining that he had interacted with people of all races throughout his career, but was open to learning more.

Sabin said his view was the opposite, saying the next mayor needed to "build faith back up" in every part of our city.

"I don't know the black community as well as I could if I were black, and I don't pretend to," he said.

The event's time constraints made for fewer rebuttals and more yes-or-no questions. When asked if Little Rock should be a sanctuary city and limit its cooperation with federal authorities in enforcing immigration law, Sabin, Scott and Tolliver said yes, while Kurrus said it wasn't a yes-or-no question.

Another yes-or-no question addressed whether the candidates would support the employment of Police Chief Kenton Buckner, who was a finalist for a job in Charleston, S.C., earlier this year before dropping out and opting to stay in Little Rock. Tolliver said no. Sabin said no, but indicated that a fuller answer might require elaboration. Scott said the mayor didn't have the power to fire the police chief, and Kurrus said the question addressed a personnel matter that shouldn't be discussed publicly.

All four expressed support for the de-prioritization of low-level marijuana offenses.

Metro on 10/12/2018

Print Headline: LR mayoral candidates hold first debate


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  • RBear
    October 12, 2018 at 6:38 a.m.

    Was this really a debate or more a public forum? Based on the report, it sounds very similar to a forum where there was little chance for rebuttal. "The event's time constraints made for fewer rebuttals and more yes-or-no questions."
    Regardless, it appears this should have been planned with an eye towards debate. It's surprising it ended up this way considering who was organizing it. As I've said before, because this is really Little Rock's first truly competitive race many organizations aren't familiar with how to handle the logistics of the candidate forums/debates.
    On another note regarding the mayoral race, a poll was released yesterday by Talk Business and Politics showing both Kurrus and Sabin tied at 22%, Scott at 18%, Tolliver at 3%, and Schwarz at 1.5%. The largest segment is Undecided at 33.5%. This should be enough to cut Tolliver and Schwarz from future forums to allow more time for the top three to engage.
    In looking at the details behind the numbers, it tracks with what I stated in the comments of a column by Brummett. Kurrus is drawing the older vote, both Republican and Independent (I would contend Clinton Democrats also). Sabin is drawing from the younger crowd, both Republican and Democrat, and Scott is drawing mostly from the African-American crowd.
    This race will go to a run-off. The question is who the top two will be. At this point, Scott could pull enough from the undecided to push out either Sabin or Kurrus. TV ads will help start to sway the undecided.

  • BoudinMan
    October 12, 2018 at 8:44 a.m.

    RB, off topic, but are you following the goings on in Waller County, TX re: the voting issues with the Prarie View students? What a mess. I'm sure you are well-versed in that situation.

  • RBear
    October 12, 2018 at 9:32 a.m.

    Yea, Waller County doesn’t have a good track record in this area and this year is even more challenging due to intense scrutiny of voter registrations with the surge in O’Rourke enthusiasm.

  • GeneralMac
    October 12, 2018 at 10:41 a.m.

    ( 2nd to last paragraph and 3rd to last paragraph ) appears Kurris is the only one capable of using common sense when giving answers.

  • RBear
    October 12, 2018 at 12:50 p.m.

    Fake you’ve never been to a forum, never heard them speak, and base your assessment on an answer you falsely claim Tucker makes all the time. You don’t even get the actual answers. Yet, you say Kurt is the only one capable of using common sense? You are either bored and drunk in the trailer or ignorant, and with you both could qualify.

  • GeneralMac
    October 12, 2018 at 1:09 p.m.

    RBear.......are you saying the reporter LIED about what the candidates said ?

    "sanctuary city" " Little Rock "

    Sounds like something Nancy Pelosi or Clarke Tucker would be proposing.

  • RBear
    October 12, 2018 at 1:14 p.m.

    No, I’m saying there was no actual answer yes or no from Kurrus in the article. Kurrus said it wasn’t yes or no. Sounds like what you would claim is wishy washy. You’re struggling to put words in Kurrus’ mouth.

  • GeneralMac
    October 12, 2018 at 1:37 p.m.

    (8TH PARAGRAPH)........Sabin, Scott, and Tolliver all said "YES" to Little Rock becoming a SANCTUARY CITY ?

    Did Nancy Pelosi feed them the answers ?

  • RBear
    October 12, 2018 at 1:40 p.m.

    Fake did Kurrus day no? Don’t you falsely harass Tucker about that kind of answer? You don’t even live or work in Little Rock.

  • hah406
    October 12, 2018 at 3:03 p.m.

    Hey Mac, you haven't managed to work anything gay into this one yet. Are you off your game today, or that far into the sauce already? By the way, do you do shine, vodka, gin, bourbon, scotch whisky, or what? I need to know what to get you for Christmas!