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San Francisco mayoral candidates meet for 2nd debate

San Francisco mayoral candidates meet for 2nd debate
San Francisco mayoral candidates meet for 2nd debate 04:37

Five major San Francisco mayoral candidates sparred on Monday during their second debate ahead of November's election.

Supervisors Aaron Peskin and Ahsha Safai joined Mayor London Breed, philanthropist Daniel Lurie and former supervisor and former mayor Mark Farrell to discuss their approaches to tackling the city's biggest issues.

The San Francisco Democratic Party hosted the debate at University of California College of the Law in San Francisco. Instead of taking place in a vast auditorium like the first debate last week, candidates were seated in a conference room with a few hundred audience members.

The intimate setup gave the candidates greater exposure to the reactions of an expressive audience. Cheers uplifted candidates while boos and hecklers tried to interrupt their flow.

Disruptions from the audience started immediately.

In his opening statement, Safai was interrupted after he said, "I want you to ask yourself this question tonight: Who on this stage is going to fight for all San Franciscans?"

A Breed supporter yelled out, "London Breed! London Breed! London Breed!"

Many of the speeches consisted of the same statements made in the first debate. Candidates had to defend their records, talk about their plans to revitalize the city and address how they will tackle the city's primary issues.

But this time some candidates amped up their appeal to a room full of democratic clubs.

"We need to get Republican money out of local politics," Peskin said. "We have to make sure that Trump does not get elected and that precipitates down to the local level."

The debate was co-hosted and attended by many of the city's democratic organizations such as the Bernal Heights Democratic Club, Harvey Milk LGBTQ Democratic Club and San Francisco Working Families Democratic Club.

Candidates were also asked to address their plans to combat hate crimes. They mentioned Asian hate crimes that surged during the COVID-19 pandemic as well as a recent rise in anti-Jewish and anti-Muslim hate since the start of the Israel-Hamas war according to police data. They also discussed protecting African Americans, immigrants and members of the LGBTQ+ community.

All candidates strongly condemned hate crimes and expressed a determination to bolster the police presence on the streets to protect citizens. They all suggested making sure public safety departments are fully staffed and continuing to have city ambassadors in neighborhoods who can provide escorts to take people to where they need to go if they feel unsafe.

Candidates also focused on telling voters their vision to boost tourism and tackle the 40 million square feet of empty office buildings in San Francisco.

All candidates said they want to transform downtown by turning it into a 24/7 community where people live instead of solely a place for working. They also agreed that prioritizing public safety is essential if businesses and tourists want to come to San Francisco.

Farrell and Breed battled each other back and forth throughout the debate.

"When this mayor talks about growing the police department budget by $200 million, what she doesn't talk about is how the rest of the budget has grown by $5 billion," Farrell said.

Breed asked Farrell if he could name three LGBTQ+ advisors for his campaign and three drag queens. In the first debate, Farrell was asked to name his favorite drag queen and he repeated Safai's answer.

Farrell said he has two advisors who are part of the LGBTQ+ community but would not name them. Even though Breed framed the question as an opportunity for Farrell to redeem himself, it was her way of showing the extent of Farrell's familiarity with the LGBTQ+ community in front of a room full of pro-LGBTQ+ democratic clubs.

While some candidates tried appealing to voters by discussing setbacks the city is facing under Breed, she made it clear that she thinks the city is on the right track.

"These guys here running against me, they want to take us backwards," Breed said. "They want to make you feel bad about what San Francisco is."

"Breed was on fire tonight. I think she won the debate," said David Rosenheim, a resident of San Francisco. 

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