Mayoral candidates clash in live debate

October 8, 2009 5:54:11 AM PDT
The race is on for Houston's next mayor. The four leading candidates squared off Wednesday night for their first debate showdown. The candidates made their pitches tonight to a TV audience. [WATCH: The entire Houston mayoral debate on ABC13]

The candidates directly confronted each other on the city budget, crime and transportation.

Peter Brown, Annise Parker, Roy Morales and Gene Locke took center stage for the debate you saw on ABC13 and on abc13.com.

Although the candidates for mayor have campaigned for months, Wednesday night was the first time voters had a chance to see them side by side in a live debate. There was definitely some nervous energy on stage as the candidates worked hard to distinguish themselves.

The candidates arrived at our ABC13 studio with their staff, and practiced their talking points until the last few moments. The first issue they tackled was the economy.

"I've proposed a new office of economic development and job creation. We're going to have a professional team that goes around the world, around the country," said Brown.

He touted a plan for an economic development office. Parker agreed, pointing out she wants to institute a Hire Houston First policy, while Locke said Houston is already on the right track.

"We have four economic engines here, the Medical Center, the Energy Corridor, the Port of Houston, and NASA," said Locke.

As the hour went on, their initial nervous energy subsided. When the question turned to public safety, Morales took his first jab, accusing the current and past mayors of not focusing on police cadet classes.

"Under Lee Brown, he cut academy classes, and during the early years of Mayor White, he also continued this policy," said Morales.

The other mayoral candidates largely agreed that neighborhood policing and working with other agencies are keys to improving safety.

"We can get immediate results by working with the other law enforcement agencies in a coordinated response strategy. We can do a better job with overtime," said Parker.

The most heated moment came with a question about the city's impending budget deficit, when Locke accused currently elected officials Parker and Brown of not being better financial watchdogs.

"The reality is you've got a problem, and the reality is that Peter Brown and Annise Parker have been down there, and they have not sounded the alarm on the problem. Quiet as a church mouse," said Locke.

But Parker, the current controller, swung right back.

"I can't help the fact that my opponents are confused about the status of the city's budget," said Parker.

The night ended on a light-hearted note when a viewer asked if any of these politicians have ever told a lie.

"I've never told a lie, when it comes to politics," said Morales.

Brown added, "I just can't think of one."

Locke and Parker also said they have never lied.

After the debate, the candidates admitted they were all a little nervous, but they did try to hammer home their objectives.

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