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Albany: Jennings-Ellis Mayoral Debate

By Dave Lucas

http://stream.publicbroadcasting.net/production/mp3/wamc/local-wamc-858613.mp3

Albany, NY – The Albany Mayoral Primary contest has generated a great deal of interest and excitement, pitting incumbent Jerry Jennings against city councilman Corey Ellis. The two candidates met in debate at the Albany Public Library last night... Capital District Bureau Chief Dave Lucas was there.

One citizen who showed up to hear the candidates debate said the men remind him of "Apples and Oranges" - both have core beliefs and favor solid policies - both travel on different paths in search of those ideals. Jennings, the former Albany High vice-principal who was raised by a single mom in North Albany, and Ellis, the Arbor Hill kid who left Albany, became a community organizer and returned home to be elected a councilmember: both men say they love and believe in the city.

They took turns fielding some 20 questions picked from index cards returned by members of the 300-strong crowd. Education, Community and Economic Development were threaded thru the evening's discourse as the candidates tackled a variety of issues including economic and racial divisions in the city, flooding, and making Albany more pedestrian and bike-friendly... they clashed on their approaches to dealing with the albany landfill and with the convention center. The Candidates got passionate when asked about adequate parking in downtown neighborhoods. Ellis pounded away on urban blight, which has been one of his campaign's core concerns... Jennings defended his record. The men scrapped over the presence and acknowledgement of gang activity in the city; they bantered about toursim and taxes, the upcoming census and alcohol at city functions.

There was a moment of tension in the air when Ellis, in his closing remarks, commented on this week's resignation of police chief James Tuffey, who stepped down after allegations he made a racial slur. "Instead of calling for an investigation into these allegations, we thanked him for his service," Ellis said. Jennings followed with his closing remarks, summarily asking voters to "put the debate in the perspective."

The crowd gathered at the library to hear the debate seemed evenly divided, with the Ellis supporters a bit more vocal than those who came to hear Jennings... Albany's 38-thousand registered Democrats go to the polls September 15th to pick the man who will be their candidate in November's general election.