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Experience Or New Vision? Cincinnati's Mayoral Candidates Make Their Case In First Debate

David Mann and Aftab Pureval Debate 1
Cincinnati Enquirer
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David Mann, left, and Aftab Pureval, right, participated in the first debate for the 2021 mayoral election Sept. 21, 2021.

Does Cincinnati's next mayor need decades of experience at City Hall or fresh ideas for a new direction? David Mann and Aftab Pureval took a more confrontational tone than previously seen in this election in the first debate Tuesday night, hosted by Xavier University and sponsored by the Cincinnati Enquirer and WVXU.

One of the two Democrats will take office following John Cranley's two terms in the position. Cranley is term-limited and has announced a run for governor of Ohio.

Mann has spent a total 26 years on City Council and is currently chair of the Budget and Finance Committee.

"We have over 6,000 employees, we are involved with 17 major departments doing very important things for the people of Cincinnati," Mann said. "Keeping them safe, developing plans for improving neighborhoods, downtown development, on and on and on."

Mann says Pureval's experience as Hamilton County Clerk of Courts isn't enough to prepare him to lead Cincinnati. Pureval says Mann is relying too heavily on his decades at City Hall and hasn't made clear his vision for the city.

"David Mann thinks everything is just fine, that you just have to trust him," Pureval said. "He's not going to give you any plans, he's not going to roll out any specifics."

Asked about how their leadership would differ from Cranley's eight years as mayor, Mann says he wants to build on recent growth.

"For the first time in decades, we have an increase in our population," Mann said. "These are important changes and we should be proud of them and celebrate them."

Pureval summarizes his vision for the city in one word: equity.

"We are still a city that's segregated," Pureval said. "A city that's segregated by race; a city that's segregated by wealth; a city that no matter the momentum and the change that we've created in the short term are still hobbled by the challenges of a bygone city."

Mann says he would keep Paula Boggs Muething as city manager, while Pureval says he would conduct a national search for a possible replacement.

The candidates answered questions on other issues, including climate change, the earnings tax and the Collaborative Agreement. You can watch the full debate below.

The deadline to register to vote is Oct. 4. Early voting starts Oct. 5.

Becca Costello grew up in Williamsburg and Batavia (in Clermont County) listening to WVXU. Before joining the WVXU newsroom, she worked in public radio & TV journalism in Bloomington, Indiana and Lincoln, Nebraska. Becca has earned numerous awards for her reporting, including from local chapters of the Associated Press and Society of Professional Journalists, and contributed to regional and national Murrow Award winners. Becca has a master's degree in journalism from Indiana University and a bachelor's degree from Cincinnati Christian University. Becca's dog Cincy (named for the city they once again call home) is even more anxious than she is.