JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Jacksonville is gearing up for its next election cycle by kicking off the first mayoral debate Monday.
Nine candidates are hoping to become Jacksonville's next mayor.
They include republican candidate's Daniel Davis, Frank Keasler, Al Ferrero, and Leanna Cumber. Democratic candidates are Audrey Gibson, Theresa Ann Richardson, and Donna Deegan. Omega Allen is not affiliated to a political party and Darcy Richardson is an independent candidate.
However, not every candidate participated in Monday's debate.
Daniel Davis and Darcy Richardson did not participate. Davis's team says he was not going to participate because they say he has commitments this week for the thanksgiving holiday. As for Richardson, he agreed to attend but notified rotary staff this morning he would not be participating.
Seven candidates did participate and discussed a range of topics like improving education, crime, downtown development, and how to improve the St. Johns River and tributaries.
"Jacksonville is in heart trouble and is in need of a transplant," Candidate Omega Allen said.
Gibson, Richardson, and Deegan expressed different solutions for curbing Jacksonville's crime rate and brought ideas to the table.
"People appreciate officers on the street without a doubt they want to feel safe it looks safe when we have officers in our neighborhoods," Democratic Candidate Audrey Gibson said.
And even suggested the mayor should work closely with the sheriff.
"I think it's going to be very important for us to foster conversations in our community that we shut down that we shouldn't have shut down that would allow us to have those difficult conversations that would make things better between our community and our police department," Democratic Candidate Donna Deegan said.**
Candidate Theresa Richardson says if elected, she will meet with family members of criminals to learn more about them. She says it is important to re-instill the fear of committing crimes to the younger generation.
On the other hand republican candidates, Keasler, Ferrero, and Cumber argued developing the downtown area is vital, but future changes need to make sense in order for the area to grow.
"I won't spend $500 million dollars, double all of your gas tax to spend $500 million dollars on the skyway downtown like the mayor and the chamber did," Republican Candidate Leanna Cumber said.
Other suggested monitoring spending habits within the city.
"I'd want to make sure these dollars are going back into the city that gets all of the things we're talking about we want to enhance and make our city better and safer, cleaner, more fun. I would track that with the officer we already have established, and I would make sure a lot more of this would stay in the city and in the taxpayers pocket," Republican Candidate Al Ferrero said.
However, the elephant in the room were the candidates who weren't there. Candidate Omega Allen says she is shocked that not all candidates would share their voice and ideas. Republican candidate Leanna Cumber defended her hard work to obtain the position.
"I'm here because I think my job as a public servant is showing up, so let's be honest and talk about who is not here today is Daniel Davis. And I don't know about you but I'm tired of career politicians saying you have to wait in line and wait for your turn. I didn't get where I'm waiting my turn and I'll tell you there is no mom out there when she is fighting for her kids who is going to wait in line. Running for mayor is not a coronation. Showing up is critical," Cumber said.
Many of the candidates, including Democratic Candidate Theresa Richardson agreed Jacksonville residents have received empty promises and it's time for new leadership.
This debate isn't the only mayoral debate expected to take place, it is likely to be a series of conversations ahead of the March city elections.
**In full transparency, Deegan's husband is First Coast News Chief Meteorologist Tim Deegan. Tim is not involved in our political coverage.