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Annissa Essaibi George, Michelle Wu Face Off On Police Reform, Education, Housing In First TV Debate

BOSTON (CBS) - Boston City Councilors Annissa Essaibi George and Michelle Wu faced off in their first televised debate in Boston's mayoral race Wednesday night on WBZ-TV. The candidates discussed topics including police reform, housing and education.

Asked about closing the opportunity gap in Boston Public Schools, Essaibi George highlighted her time as a teacher.

"Good enough as it relates to our education system, as it relates to my responsibility as a parent is not good enough," said Essaibi George. "As a teacher, I know how to do this work. You want to fix the Boston Public Schools, hire a teacher, I'll get it done."

Wu, who has two children in Boston schools, said she is personally invested in the issue.

Boston Mayoral Debate on WBZ
Boston mayoral candidates Michelle Wu and Annissa Essaibi George, with moderator Jon Keller, prepare for to debate on WBZ-TV. (WBZ-TV)

"We need to ensure that in this Mecca of education, those resources, those opportunities are connected with each of our young people. I'll ensure there are improvements to school assignment processes that reflect equity, but more importantly, that we are investing in each one of our seats," Wu said, saying that early childhood education and vocational education need to be part of the conversation.

WATCH: Full WBZ-TV/CBSN Boston Mayoral Debate

On the housing crisis, Wu called for rent stabilization to help keep people in their homes. "Everything should be on the table when it comes to addressing our housing crisis, especially when it comes to addressing our crisis of displacement," Wu said.

Essaibi George said rent control has failed in the city before.

"That will create further disinvestment in our city. That will keep rents high and push our city's residents further and further away from community, from job centers, from schools and from future opportunities," said Essaibi George, saying rent control is hard on small landlords. "Rent control is not the answer."

Both candidates called for more transparency from the police department.

Wu said, "I will ensure that the choice of the new police commissioner is one that will deliver urgently on reforms that are needed to the structures, the culture of our department, and get going right away on that underlying barrier that holds much of this back, negotiating a new police union contract."

Essaibi George said she believes in investing in public safety, not "defunding".

"I think it's one of the most important responsibilities that I have as mayor of this city," Essaibi George said. "We need to ensure that our city is a safe city and a just city. That work is incredibly important."

The debate was moderated by WBZ-TV's Jon Keller.

"This was a high road debate by any measure," Keller said. "I think it spoke well on the discipline and intelligence by both candidates on the way they do their business."

RELATED: Debate Analysis From Jon Keller

Wu drew more than 10,000 more votes than Essaibi George in the preliminary, topped the at-large council ticket the last two times she ran, and is perceived as the frontrunner.

A WBUR poll released on Wednesday found that Wu leads Essaibi George by 32 points with three weeks to go before the election.

"I was a little bit surprised that Essaibi George didn't come on a little bit stronger," Keller said. "She's clearly trailing here, you might have thought she might try to get Michelle Wu on the ropes a little bit, but I didn't see any of that."

The two city councilors were the top vote-getters in the preliminary election on September 14. Boston voters will go to the polls on November 2 to choose their next mayor. It will be the first time a woman of color will be elected to be mayor of the city.

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