MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Four Memphis mayor hopefuls — Van Turner, Paul Young, Floyd Bonner and J.W. Gibson — made their case to voters in a televised debate on WREG Tuesday night.
Crime and their plans to reduce it was at the top of the agenda during the debate. Three of the four candidates (Turner, Young and Bonner) answered “yes” when asked if they’d personally been a victim of a crime in the past five years.
But during that question, Turner veered from his answer to come out swinging at two of his opponents: Bonner, the county sheriff and Young, CEO of the Downtown Memphis Commission.
Turner, an attorney and former county commissioner and NAACP chairman, accused both opponents of positioning themselves with Republicans. He demanded local litigation to enact stronger gun laws, one of at least two times Tuesday night he targeted each with strong words.
“I don’t understand why Mr. Young has voted in multiple Republican elections, and Sheriff Bonner has accepted the nomination and the endorsement of the Republican Party,” Turner said. “The Republican Party is killing Memphis. They will not enact sensible gun laws. It’s like they’re not listening to us.”
Young responded that his votes were in Republican primaries only, not general elections. He called it “strategic crossover voting to ensure that we have good people on both sides of the ledger,” decrying partisan politics and saying he was here to “unify the community.”
Bonner said he didn’t know where Turner got his information. “We are a broad campaign. We are looking to seek voters from any party, any race,” he said.
The Memphis mayoral race is officially non-partisan.
All four candidates agree they would enforce the juvenile curfew. All four candidates agreed they’d have to sit down with Police Chief CJ Davis and review the Memphis Police Department before they could commit to retaining or replacing her as chief.
In a question about attracting industry to the area, Gibson, an entrepreneur, praised Ford’s Blue Oval City electric vehicle facility as a tremendous opportunity, saying Memphis should capitalize on its geographic position. Young said the metro should become a “hub for electric vehicles.”
But in a separate question about how the mayor could keep businesses in Memphis, where many are being repeatedly victimized by Crime, Turner again turned his sights on Bonner.
He accused Bonner of not doing his job by patrolling Memphis.
Bonner responded that the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department’s duty is to respond to the municipalities and unincorporated areas outside the city — although he stressed that they have brought patrols inside Memphis whenever they’ve been asked.
Memphis municipal elections are Oct. 5, with early voting beginning this Friday.
In addition to 17 candidates running for mayor, Memphis City Council seats also are up for a vote.
► WREG released a poll on the mayor’s race Aug. 15. See the results here.
► Find a sample ballot for Memphis voters here.