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Mayoral candidates follow no-debate rule at Detroit Econ Club luncheon

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The candidates take center stage at Wednesday's Detroit Economic Club's luncheon The candidates take center stage at Wednesday's Detroit Economic Club's luncheon
DETROIT, Mich. (WJBK) -

Detroit mayoral candidates Mike Duggan and Sheriff Benny Napoleon engaged in a conversation Wednesday - not a debate. Both candidates hammered talking points the city has heard before. They both oppose the emergency manager and think the state's plan to lease Belle Isle is bad for Detroit. Duggan said he'd work with Kevyn Orr until he can convince Governor Snyder to remove him. Napoleon said he wouldn't work with the EM at all. They touted their strengths and touched on what their opponent sees as weaknesses.

One of the topics discussed was Duggan's rumored involvement in talks that brought Orr to the city.

Moderator Carol Caine asks: "Are there anything in these emails that would connect you to the emergency manager, whether you were being considered for it or you being a proponent for it in any way?"

"Absolutely not," he responded. "I told them flat out - 'No,' that I did not think the government had any right to pick the leader of the city of Detroit, that I thought it would be a terrible mistake if he did it."

Another touchy topic discussed was Sheriff Napoleon's involvement in the Wayne County jail project.

Caine asks: "What was your role in the Wayne County jail, and we know there were tremendous cost overruns, other problems, with it. So can you just tell us once and for all what your role was with this, and the responsibility you have with that."

Napoleon responded: "Zero; zip; nada. The only thing I agreed to do was operate the jail when the county executive, who is responsible for building the jail, built it."

The candidates didn't challenge each other - even when they were given the perfect chance - and followed the no-debate rule.

While the Detroit Economic Club event was heavy on conversation neither candidate was forced to push the envelope.

"I really believe we have to make the transition from a forum culture to a debate culture because we're not pursuing or maturing or advancing ideas, because the ideas aren't contested," says Vince Keenan of the website publius.org.

"If you are running for any political office, I think, you need to show why you're different from your opponent," says Bankole Thompson of the Michigan Chronicle.

That's something many hope to hear at next Tuesday's debate, the last chance before the election.

"It was actually refreshing to be staying positive," Duggan shares.

"The information is out there. Do your homework. Figure out what people really are, then vote your conscience," Sheriff Napoleon says.

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