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Keller @ Large: Michelle Wu, Annissa Essaibi George On What They Expect In Boston Mayoral Debate On WBZ-TV

BOSTON (CBS) - For Boston mayoral finalists Michelle Wu and Annissa Essaibi George, the four weeks since they made the runoff have been a crush of nitty-gritty campaigning.

Essaibi George has expanded her support with labor unions and focused on courting voters in parts of the city where she needs to do better, while Wu has mixed handshaking with big-name endorsements, piling up a hefty fundraising lead.

Money and endorsements are great - you'd rather have 'em then not have 'em. But for the tens of thousands of voters who either didn't show up to vote in the preliminary or voted for someone besides Wu and Essaibi George, Wednesday night's debate on WBZ-TV should provide a moment of clarity.

George Wu
Boston mayoral candidates Annissa Essaibi George and Michelle Wu (WBZ-TV)

We asked both candidates to preview what they have in mind for their first broadcast encounter.

"I want them to see someone who is passionate about this city, who is looking forward to leading this city in partnership with each and every one of them," said Essaibi George. "I think they're going to see a very clear contrast for me demonstrating my ability to actually do this work. I have not just plans for the work but a demonstrated ability to get the work done."

That response fits into a theme Essaibi George struck on preliminary night, that she is the realistic candidate who can deliver results while Wu is over-promising.

"We're bringing a focus on the track record, experience and bold vision Boston needs in this moment, one that centers on just how big the challenges are and the power we have in city govt to get things done," says Wu, who used her preliminary night speech to chastise those who want to just "nibble around the edges" of real change. "Councilor Essaibi George and I have known each other for a long time, we've served together, been in many conversations across the city and so we each bring a lot to the table and I'm looking forward to getting into the details."

So, what will we see Wednesday night?

This is the first live TV debate for both candidates and you never know for sure, but Wu drew 10,000 votes more than Essaibi George in the preliminary, topped the at-large council ticket the last two times she ran, and is perceived as the frontrunner. That gives Essaibi George every incentive to be on offense, and she told me she plans to "bring her 'A' game". But the debate is important for Wu, it'll be her first prolonged exposure to some voters, and I fully expect her to give as good as she gets.

(WBZ-TV graphic)

Plus, we've prepared some questions with the help of the public that you haven't heard them answer before. Join us Wednesday at 7 p.m. on WBZ-TV, CBSN Boston, and listen in on WBZ NewsRadio 1030.

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