Candidates for Columbia City Council and mayor attend debate

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COLUMBIA — Six candidates for the the City of Columbia Third Ward, Fourth Ward and mayor seats joined Monday's Debate Night '16 at Muriel Battle High School. Two debates were scheduled for the two-hour event. Mayoral candidates Brian Treece and Skip Walther attended the first debate. Third Ward candidates Karl Skala and Tom Leuther and Fourth Ward candidates Ian Thomas and Daryl Dudley participated in the second debate.

"It's important to give the citizens of Columbia a resource and more in-depth looking at the candidates ahead of the April 4th's election," said Corbin Umstattd, one of the organizers of the Debate Night '16.

Umstattd said there has been a lot of focus on national and state races, but it is crucial to take a look at what's happening locally because that impacts our society as well.

"I think it's extremely important that we have event like this, especially right now. The political season is very volatile and I think it's really nice to come down to the issues of what's in your community," Columbia citizen Jill Dudley, who is not related to the candidate Darryl Dudley, said.

Dudley said she wants to understand the personality and viewpoints of each candidate because each of them would have different passion points.

"There are a lot of issues are going to be discussed tonight that are important for people in Columbia- whether it be safety in Columbia, downtown development and the city's infrastructure," Umstattd said.

Umstattd believes public safety issues are at the forefront of people's mind including police officers or crime in the city. He said a lot of people are discussing how to maintain and improve, and people are curious about how the different candidates would try to solve the problems.

"I think something that is beneficial for people in Columbia is to gain a better understanding of where the candidates stand  on certain issues. So they have a clear understanding when they go to the polls who represents my view points," Umstattd said.

Dudley said citizens really want to know what the candidates' level of common sense and how they align with people's values and the city's values.

"One of the things that people I know in general are moaning or complaint about is all of the student housing and how was that impacting the city," Dudley said. "Do we have the infrastructure for it? And I want to make sure do we have enough parking downtown. Do we have the sewer system? Do we have the water system? Do we have everything in place?"

Dudley hopes the candidates are not only looking at what is going to impact the city immediately, but also long term. 

"I think it's really important for people educating themselves and they are getting out there voting for what speaks to them, what they think is important and who they think align best with their values-no matter what the party is, no matter what the issues are- but really just listen to who they think they can trust and who's going to do the best thing for the community," Dudley said.

Umstattd said they expected between 100 to 200 attendance to this debate.