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Politics & Government

First GOP Mayoral Debate Highlights Few Differences Between Candidates

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Republican mayoral hopefuls John Crawford and Tim Smith faced off in their first debate Thursday night, two months ahead of the May 7 primary election.

The debate was hosted by Young Leaders of Northeast Indiana at the Arts United Center. Neither candidate strayed too far from familiar talking points. Both laid out goals for improving public safety through increased support for the police department and a desire to bring Fort Wayne to the next level as a destination.

Smith also spoke at length about his desire to invest $70 million over ten years to construct sidewalks around public schools, without raising taxes. He called the idea of raising taxes being the only way to bring in money a "myth."

“It is true you must increase revenue or decrease expenses, but there’s another way to increase revenue, and that’s to grow the economy with new, higher-paying jobs,” said Smith.

Crawford criticized Smith for calling for budget cuts, yet never specifying where those cuts would come. He noted the annual budget is around $240 million, and $150 million is committed to police, fire, parks, streets and animal control. That leaves $90 million, which helps pay for things like city salaries.

“He says he can find $70 million in cuts? Show me. Show me where those are," Crawford said. "Because if you’re going to do that, you might have to lay off 400, 500 city employees. You might want to let those city employees know that may happen, they may not be so happy about that.”

Otherwise, the conversation was rarely tense, with candidates largely expanding on already-announced positions for fresh ears and, at times, fully agreeing to the other’s answer to a question.

The two candidates will face off in the May 7 primary. The winner of the Republican nomination will look to unseat Democratic Mayor Tom Henry, who is running for his fourth term as mayor of Fort Wayne.

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