Muriel Bowser takes on her challengers in the latest DC mayoral debate

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DC Mayor Muriel E. Bowser described the two council members who challenged her in the June Democratic primary as “equivocal and dithering” as she sought during a radio debate Wednesday night to run as a proven leader deserving of a third term.

The debate, organized by WAMU, exposed a series of political differences between the three candidates who participated.

DC Council member Robert C. White Jr. said he opposes the construction of a new professional football stadium in the district and supports a ballot initiative that would require restaurant workers to receive minimum wage before tips. Bowser and council member Trayon White Sr. both said they favored the Washington commanders moving to the RFK stadium site and opposed Initiative 82.

On policing, Bowser maintained his push for a larger police force while Robert White and Trayon White maintained their reluctance to hire more officers instead of diverting funds to non-policing alternatives. However, council members disagreed on the issue of police in schools, with Trayon White agreeing with Bowser that the city should restore the funding it had cut for officers in school buildings.

“This generation has become more violent. Let’s be honest,” Trayon White said. “If you don’t have anyone with the power to break up the fights, it gets extremely violent, people get blown up… To ignore that would be to ignore me as a leader.”

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James Butler, the fourth candidate to appear on the Democratic primary ballot in June, was not invited because WAMU required candidates to meet certain thresholds, including “a significant amount” of support in the polls. ‘opinion.

At times, the exchanges between the three candidates became heated, especially when Bowser called her opponents less qualified for the position she has held for two terms.

When Robert White and Trayon White criticized Bowser’s approach to encampments, saying they would not impose time limits on the homeless to leave certain places, but instead would work to ensure that people get housing, Bowser replied, “What I’ve heard is council members don’t do anything.” She touted her successes in reducing homelessness in the district and said her practice of forcibly clearing the encampments after offering accommodation to the people staying there is necessary.

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When Robert White discussed plans to hire 10,000 residents at a cost of $1.5 billion in a massive new program to reduce unemployment, Bowser said the city couldn’t pay for it. “Taxpayers need to recognize that there are only a few places left to go to support a bloated government, and that’s up to them — and I guess it’s down to their property taxes,” she said.

Robert White called it “scaremongering”, saying he would pay for the plan from projected future earnings and would raise no taxes.

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The moment Bowser called the council members “quibbles” came after moderator Tom Sherwood pushed the two council members, particularly Robert White, to clarify their positions on the mayor’s control over public schools. Trayon White, a former member of the State Board of Education, spoke of the need for a “hybrid” model in which the mayor and the school board share control, and Robert White tried to explain why he gave answers slightly different on the subject in different forums.

Bowser, who supports maintaining the mayor’s control and called it a “fundamental issue” of the election, said she found the two council members’ answers unclear. “If your response changes depending on the direction of the wind, they can’t trust you with their kids,” she said.

Some of the questions were asked by DC residents in recorded messages. One of the simplest questions in the debate came from Caleb, a resident who described himself in his recorded message to the radio station as “8 and three-quarters years old”.

“How would you feel if your opponent won the election? Caleb asked.

Both Robert White and Trayon White said they will continue to work to improve the district. And just before Bowser said she, too, would accept the election results and continue to work for the good of the city if she lost, she noted, “Well, I didn’t lose an election.”

“It would be a terrible feeling, I imagine,” she said.

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