This post was written by Hatchet reporter Brandon Campbell.
Mayoral candidates came to Southeast D.C. on Thursday to tout their stances on issues like education and marijuana legalization.
Muriel Bowser, David Catania and Carol Schwartz squared off in their final mayoral debate at Anacostia High School. WUSA9 news anchor Bruce Johnson served as moderator, asking candidates questions from Ward 8 residents and social media.
Here are some of the key moments from the debate:
1. Biggest contribution to D.C. residents
The candidates, who all have experience serving on the D.C. Council, highlighted the areas where they think they’ve had the most success in supporting residents.
A former Republican At-Large Council member, Schwartz said she was proud of the environmental and liberal policies she implemented during her time on the Council.
“I provided sick leave for those who need it, and made it easier for people to obtain it,” said Schwartz. “As well, I helped clean up the environment and the Anacostia River.”
Catania, an Independent At-Large Council member, pointed to his work improving public health, reminding voters how he helped decrease the number of uninsured D.C. residents, reduce HIV transmission rates and invest in at-risk children.
Bowser, the Democratic nominee who represents Ward 4 on the Council, said she helped provide free transit for students, which “made a big difference in everyday lives of families.”
2. Views on education
Bowser and Catania both said that changes in leadership in D.C. public schools was a key issue, adding to many of the problems that students and teachers now face.
“The biggest thing we’re missing on education policy is stability in our leadership and our schools,” Catania said.
Bowser said the public school system needed to better help students experience joy through their education, prompting the crowd to cheer.
“One thing lacking from school is learning for fun,” she said, adding that she believes the city should “should encourage increased enrollment in specialty schools,” like the School without Walls at 2130 G St. and the Duke Ellington School of the Arts, also in Northwest D.C.
3. Marijuana legalization
This November, D.C. voters will weigh in on Initiative 71, which calls for the legalization of marijuana in the city. Schwartz and Catania were split on the issue.
Schwartz said she will vote “no” on Election Day, arguing that decriminalization, not legalization, was best for the city.
But Catania said he supported legalization.
“I am voting for Initiative 71,” he said. “Prohibition just simply does not work for our community.”
4. Safety as a key issue
All three candidates said safety was a top concern and that they had clear plans of action to address safety issues.
Schwartz said she would increase the size of the Metropolitan Police Department and implement other programs to improve a sense of safety across the city.
“I want to get officers out of their cars, establishing relationships with the citizens,” Schwartz said. “We all need to be walking on the streets and feel safe.”
Bowser said she plans to work with young people who often know when violence could break out, and then collaborate with them to prevent it.
“People feel more unsafe than they ever did in too many parts of this community,” she said.
But Catania had a different idea to curb violence across the city.
“I want to build up the mental health programs in schools to protect them from continuing the violence they have been surrounded by,” he said.