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Mayoral Candidates Discuss Growing Black Businesses In First Election Forum

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African American Chamber of Commerce Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky
Clockwise from top left: candidate Cecil Thomas, candidate Gavi Begtrup, candidate Aftab Pureval, moderator Andre Perry, and candidate Raffel Prophett.

Four of the six candidates for Cincinnati mayor pitched their plans to support Black-owned businesses Thursday. The African American Chamber of Commerce of Greater Cincinnati and Northern Kentucky hosted the first forum for the primary election coming up in two months.

Hamilton County Clerk of Courts Aftab Pureval says many Black-owned businesses can't compete for city contracts because the barriers are too high.

"We need to immediately review that process and make sure that we are not systemically preventing Black-owned businesses from even stepping onto the playing field," Pureval said.

State Senator Cecil Thomas says 20% of city contracts should go to Black and minority-owned businesses.

"I would expect my economic development director, as well as the other folks I put in place, I would expect them to diligently pursue that goal," Thomas said.

Physicist and entrepreneur Gavi Begtrup says he's committed to not accepting campaign donations from developers.

"If you're a Black-owned business and you want a contract from the city, you're wondering whether the mayor or council has taken more money from your opponent, and whether that might be in the back of their head," Begtrup said.

Retired Cincinnati Fire Department District Chief Raffel Prophett says he would leverage relationships with organizations like the African American Chamber to increase prosperity "to get at the disparity that we have been stuck in place for generations, and in fact we're regressing in terms of African American-owned businesses," Prophett said.

The Chamber says all six candidates confirmed they would participate, but City Council Member David Mann could not attend due to a family emergency. Adjunct professor Herman Najoli did not participate.

The top two vote-getters in the nonpartisan primary in May make it to the November ballot.

Andre Perry, senior fellow in the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution, moderated the forum.

Watch the full forum on the Chamber's Facebook page