ST. LOUIS (KMOX) – Three candidates squaring off in the St. Louis mayoral race shared a stage at the Central Library Auditorium Tuesday night.

Three-term incumbent Francis Slay was joined by Aldermanic President Lewis Reed and former Alderman Jimmie Matthews at the forum. It was the first debate for the candidates prior to a March 5 Democratic primary. With no Republicans and just one third-party candidate running, the March primary will likely decide who the city’s next executive is.

Unsurprisingly, crime was a recurring theme Monday night. There were 113 homicides in the city last year and 14 thus far in 2013.

“We have too many thugs, too many people using too many guns against innocent victims in our neighborhood and that’s a fact,” Slay said, a comment that drew jeers from some in the crowd. “That’s why we put $53 million more in the Police Department.”

Slay argued that violent crime is dropping and renewed calls for Missouri lawmakers to allow the city to enact and enforce its own gun control laws.

But Reed said crime is not simply a numbers game. “You know, you can play with the numbers all you want but at the end of the day we have major issues in our city and the first thing we have to do is admit we have a problem,” Reed said. He suggested more social programs could reduce crime.

“The mayor continues to gloss over these crime statistics and we can no longer just gloss over these things,” Reed said in an interview after the forum. Slay responded by saying that citing crime statistics “is an easy thing to do.” Both candidates said they would like to see more police but Slay argued the city cannot afford more due to rising pension costs. Matthews, meanwhile, suggested legally restricting access to bullets rather than guns.

Hundreds turned out to the debate, forcing organizers to utilize two overflow rooms in which video of the discussion was streamed. You can listen to the entire debate here.


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