Six candidates for mayor of Dayton discussed issues ranging from business tax breaks and gun violence to leadership and education reform at a public forum before 60 people Wednesday night at the New Zion Missionary Baptist Church.
Incumbent Gary Leitzell was joined for a calm, two-hour discussion by challengers Derek Folley, Eric Lamont Gregory, Darshawn Romine, A.J. Wagner and Nan Whaley, just two weeks before the mayoral ballot will be finalized.
Several local pastors asked the candidates how they could help in light of last week’s surge in gun violence in West Dayton.
Whaley said Dayton’s mayor should lead the Mayors Against Illegal Guns group, and said the “gun-show buying loophole” should be closed. Leitzell said people have the right to bear arms, but suggested requiring people to pay more for access to assault rifles or high-capacity magazines.
Wagner said the key is “an education, a job and God,” because in his time as a judge, people who had those three things never ended up in his courtroom. Folley said he doesn’t support President Obama’s gun proposals, arguing they tamper with the Bill of Rights, but said more community role models are needed.
Gregory said a key is determining what leads individuals to lives of violence and eliminating root causes, adding that he’d like to see the city buy back guns. Romine said an “absolute yes” when asked if he would make getting rid of all guns part of his campaign.
Some specific quiz-type questions early in the event tripped up Romine, who put Dayton’s population at 98,000 rather than 141,000, and Folley, who could only describe the current phase of I-75 construction downtown as “ongoing.”
Asked by Dayton NAACP President Derrick Foward to point to their successes, Leitzell touted recent studies that called Dayton “the most affordable city, the happiest city and the third-best city for employment opportunities. Wagner said he helped revamp the property revaluation and appeals process as county auditor, and Whaley said her work was crucial to the creation of the county land bank to deal with blighted properties.
None of the candidates brought up Whaley’s recent telephone poll, which angered Leitzell and Wagner this week for questions they felt misrepresented facts about their past.